The NFL preseason is officially off and running.
On Thursday, the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Dallas Cowboys 16-3 in a game that mostly didn’t matter, other than its signaling the beginning of football in 2021.
But exhibition reps do matter to young players trying to make a roster and to reserves trying to solidify their place in a pecking order.
Enter Mason Rudolph, the Steelers’ established QB2, with a newcomer in Dwayne Haskins fighting for his spot.
As Ben Roethlisberger strolled the sidelines, Rudolph got off to an efficient start, mostly. He connected on his first five pass attempts and his offense marched down the field.
Unfortunately, his time was short-lived — reps are normally scripted in these games — and he went to the bench with his team scoreless. Rudolph led three drives and left the game down 3-nothing.
On his first possession, Rudolph botched a handoff with wide receiver Chase Claypool that was fumbled and then recovered by the Cowboys defense.
On the next drive, Rudolph’s first incompletion bounced off Claypool’s mitts on third-and-3, sending him back to the sideline empty-handed.
Then Rudolph and Claypool attempted to redeem themselves with this 41-yard pass.
Rudolph’s final pass attempt of the night was thrown off-target, behind his college teammate James Washington, for another third-down incompletion.
Three drives, zero points and with an exciting newcomer biting at his heels.
But as much as those that tweet like to pile on, it’s important to remember that this is the first preseason game of the season. And it was going around.
After Rudolph hit the pine, Pittsburgh went with the talk of training camp, former first round pick, Dwayne Haskins. He went 1-for-3 and the ensuing drive and the Steelers went three-and-out. Haskins failed to set the timeline ablaze. Steelers QB4 Josh Dobbs finished the game with a quick score but things were basically over and he tossed the rock just six times.
Rudolph led the winning team going 6-of-9 for 84 yards, followed by Haskins’ 8-for-13 for 54 and Josh Dobbs’ 4-for-6 for 37 and the Steelers’ only passing TD.
Former OSU receiver James Washington was targeted twice but couldn’t reel in either pass. He’s still got fans.
Former OSU tight end Blake Jarwin (Cowboys) did not make the trip.
The Steelers head to Philadelphia to face the Eagles next Thursday, August 12 for their second of four preseason tilts. The Cowboys head to Arizona to play the Cardinals Friday, Aug. 13.
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