Or, at least, that seems to be the thought process entering Week 4.
“We had some opportunity. We had some throws for shots,” Fichtner told reporters, per Triblive.com’s Joe Rutter. “If you don’t connect or throw them, it never really materializes.”
Of the 14 completions Rudolph had in the eventual 24-20 loss, only his two touchdown passes — one was a 76-yard catch-and-run score by receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, the other a 39-yard pass to WR Diontae Johnson — were thrown for more than one yard beyond the line of scrimmage.
Outside of that, Rudolph’s first NFL start consisted of a variety of short throws, a far cry from the passing prowess that led him to prominence in his four years at Oklahoma State where he set numerous school and Big 12 records.
The Steelers were the beneficiary of great field position on their first drive, thanks to a T.J. Watt interception on the game’s opening drive that put them on the SF 33. Rudolph earned a net gain of five yards on three straight short passes; the drive eventually ended with a field goal.
“We were able to go down the field early,” Fichtner said. “You’ve got to throw them. You’ve got to throw it. You’ve got to attempt to throw it there.”
Despite Rudolph finishing the game 14-of-27 for 174 yards (6.4 yards per pass), two TDs and a pick, Fichtner remains confident in the young QB, who will be the man for the remainder of the season with the injured Ben Roethlisberger out of the picture.
“Whether he’s hesitant or didn’t feel comfortable or didn’t like the matchup enough, that all goes into play,” he said. “It could have been the protection. … I’m not second-guessing Mason at all. We’re going to try to be aggressive as we can be from start to finish.”