The Steelers will likely turn to fourth-year quarterback Mason Rudolph against the Lions, which would be his 10th career start. In 2019, Roethlisberger was unable to play the back half of the season and Rudolph took over, leading the team to a 5-3 record. Over that eight-game stretch, Rudolph completed 62 percent of his passes for 1,765 yards, 13 touchdowns, and nine interceptions. He would finish that season with a 52.7 grade from PFF.
Since that stint as a starter, Rudolph played in five games, starting one (a loss) in 2020, but has not seen the field this season despite Roethlisberger dealing with a plethora of injuries.
The Steelers drafted Rudolph with the hope that he could be the heir apparent to Roethlisberger, but he has underwhelmed when given the opportunity to play.
Overall, this is a big blow to a Steelers offense that was already missing JuJu Smith-Schuster (injured reserve) and Chase Claypool, who has been ruled out this week with a toe injury. The team will likely lean heavily on first-round rookie running back Najee Harris (who is also dealing with a foot injury but does not carry an injury designation into this game). But as Jeremy Reisman pointed out in his On Paper preview, the Steelers run game has not been efficient this season.
“Najee Harris has been all of the rage over the past couple weeks, but truth be told, this Steelers rushing attack has been bad all season,” Reisman wrote. “It’s not at all Harris’ fault—his PFF run grade of 67.6 is more than adequate—but he’s probably been getting more credit than he deserves. [...] As a team, they rank 29th in yards per carry (3.6) and just 20.5 percent of their rushes are earning first downs (28th).”
Will this be the week the Lions get their first win of the season? They just got a big opportunity to do just that.