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49ers Open as 7-Point Favorites Over Steelers with Rudolph Starting for Roethlisberger

Eric Rosales

by Eric Rosales in NFL Football

Updated Apr 2, 2020 · 6:54 AM PDT

Mason Rudolph
With Ben Roethlisberger done for the year, the reins of the Steelers offense have been handed to backup Mason Rudolph. Photo from @YahooSports (Twitter).
  • Steelers’ QB Ben Roethlisberger out for the year with elbow injury
  • Mason Rudolph will start first career game on the road against the 49ers 
  • What’s the best bet to make?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are flying into the unknown.

On Monday, they announced that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was done for the year, going under the knife for a right elbow injury.

Big Ben has been  at the helm of the Black and Yellow going on 16 years. His backup, Mason Rudolph has 19 career NFL pass attempts – all gained in relief duty in a loss to the Seahawks on Sunday.

That was reflected in the Steelers vs 49ers odds, with the oddsmakers showing no mercy for the visitors.

Pittsburgh Steelers vs San Francisco 49ers

Team Spread
Pittsburgh Steelers +7 (-105)
San Francisco 49ers -7 (-115)

*Odds from 16/09/19

That’s a mighty high line for a 49ers team that, prior to crushing the Bengals in Week 2, needed a pair of Jameis Winston bailouts in Tampa Bay to escape with their first win. Which way should you be leaning in this one?

Steelers’ Infrastructure Should Support Rudolph

I say should, because if this happened in any other season, we’d be talking about how winning programs like the Steelers remain competitive no matter the personnel losses. But this season, they haven’t looked close to anything that resembles that reputation.

While there’s no shame in losing to New England in Week 1, it was how they failed to compete – especially on the defensive side of the ball, where they showed almost no resistance – that first raised concerns in a 30-3 drubbing.

Against Seattle in their home opener, Pittsburgh still looked choppy on offense, and their defense was again a non-factor, as Russell Wilson shredded them to the tune of 300 yards passing and three TDs.

Rudolph got into the game late in the second quarter and seemed to find his way in the second half, settled down by completing a bomb to JuJu Smith Schuster, and finding a release valve of a receiver in Vance McDonald. His line was decent for his first career appearance: 12-for-19 for 112 yards, two TDs and one interception.

Usually in these types on instances, Steeler teams could rely on the run game to stay afloat, leaving Rudolph to just manage the game. But they’ve combined for just 113 yards rushing in two games, and starting running back James Conner injured his knee in the last game.

Jaylen Samuels could be starting alongside Rudolph. The 23-year-old has three starts to his name (though he has been effective).

What’s the Best Bet to Make?

The last time he took meaningful snaps as a senior at Oklahoma State, Rudolph had a big year, throwing for over 4,900 yards and 37 touchdowns in 13 starts before Pittsburgh took him in the third round of the 2018 draft.

There’s no exact formula to see if college QBs translate to the pros, but at least he’s not an unknown or hasn’t played in big games. Rudolph did look comfortable in the pocket at times, and unless Tony Romo is coming out of the broadcast booth, or Colin Kaepernick is actually given an NFL chance again, this is is his job to lose.

Statistically speaking – over a two-game sample, no less – the 49ers do present some defensive teeth that should test him. San Francisco is surrendering just 17 points a game and just over 300 yards of offense per game, both top 10 ranks. They’ve also sacked the quarterback seven times , tied for fifth in the league, and they’re second in the NFL with four picks.

Can the Steelers’ defense hold up to a team averaging 36 points a game to start the year (third in the NFL) and churning out over 400 yards a game?  They’ve faced some really tough teams, and have surrendered 30.5 points a game (27th) and 445 yards per contest (25th).

If Pittsburgh’s pride and pedigree were to ever show their face, it would be here in Week 3. While it doesn’t get them the victory, it should be enough to get them a cover against a Niners team that has yet to play a top end opponent to see where they stand.

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