The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Detroit Lions allegedly played a game of football yesterday, but we wouldn't blame you if you wanted to forget it ever happened. The 16-16 tie was an abhorrent display of football. A catastrophe on the field the likes of which we haven't seen in years.
Both teams deserved to lose. But if we had to pick a team who should have won this disaster, it's the Steelers. They fumbled twice in Lions territory in overtime. Detroit was a comically one-dimensional offense throughout the matchup, running the ball over and over again. Jared Goff had 54 yards passing in the first four quarters! And yet Pittsburgh was unable to stop the Lions' rushing attack. What should have been an easy win for the Steelers turned into a complete mess and the tie may very well play a big role in playoff contention later this year with how tight the AFC North is.
We would, of course, be remiss to mention that the Steelers were shorthanded yesterday. Ben Roethlisberger tested positive for COVID, forcing Mason Rudolph into the starting role. Rudolph hadn't played a game since the 2019 season, when he filled in for Roethlisberger in the last eight games of the year after Big Ben underwent elbow surgery. Rudolph was abjectly terrible that year and the only reason anyone still thinks about the 2019 Steelers season is because it's the year Myles Garrett lost his mind and slugged Rudolph with a helmet.
After another season and a half of riding the bench, maybe Rudolph improved! Spoiler alert: he did not.
Rudolph looked exactly like the guy who game-managed his way to five wins two years ago, throwing 13 touchdowns and nine interceptions while averaging 6.2 yards per attempt. Which is a long way of saying he looked bad. Rudolph threw for 242 yards and one touchdown to match one interception on 50 (!!!) attempts. He averaged 4.4 yards gained per passing attempt. The Steelers did not lose, but they did not win.
It was a brutal reminder of just how screwed the organization is when Roethlisberger hangs up the cleats. They aren't exactly in a good place now, considering their longtime franchise quarterback is completely washed and exhibits no interest in even trying to throw the ball down the field on 90 percent of passing downs. But they've invested no resources in finding him a legitimate backup, much less a successor, since drafting Rudolph in 2019.
Yesterday's debacle is exactly why Ryan Clark called the franchise's handling of the QB position a "complete organizational failure" earlier this season. If Big Ben were to get hurt and miss the rest of the year, as he did only two seasons ago, the Steelers may as well pack their bags for vacation as soon as the regular season ends. If Roethlisberger retires after this year, they'll have to hope they get lucky on the trade market or strike gold in a very weak quarterback class in the draft. Otherwise, they're stuck with Rudolph, who has as bad an arm as Roethlisberger right now despite being over a decade younger, or pray Dwayne Haskins somehow figures it out.
It's a lot of hoping no matter which way you slice it. Nobody on either side played well yesterday, but for Steelers fans, watching Rudolph dink and dunk his way around was just a painful reminder of the team's puzzling plan for post-Big Ben life. It makes one wonder if they even have a plan. And it's hard to decide what's worse-- not having a plan, or that Mason Rudolph is the start and end to the plan.