Steelers OC: Mason Rudolph coming off his best game

Mason Rudolph isn't a finished product, but his coaching staff believes the quarterback is making strides by the week as the Pittsburgh Steelers vault back into the playoff picture.

Offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner, who at times this season lamented Rudolph's tendency to eschew field-stretching plays, said the young signal-caller is coming off his best game as a pro in the 17-12 win over the Los Angeles Rams.

"I think it was his best game of consistently making decisions and putting the ball in proper spots," Fichtner said Tuesday, via the team's official website. "That led to opportunities down the field.

"And he did a nice job with it, put balls in places we could catch them."

Rudolph looked more decisive Sunday, and while he still relies heavily on dump-offs, he targeted receivers more than previous weeks. He also displayed a willingness to stretch the field.

The second-year signal-caller made several big plays against Rams pressure, including converting a fourth-and-1 from the Steelers' own 34-yard-line. That Pittsburgh called a pass for Rudolph in that spot showed a burgeoning faith in the quarterback.

"I just feel like he's coming into himself, man," center Maurkice Pouncey said. "It takes time at that position. I know every writer wants the guy to be a Hall-of-Famer as soon as they step in there, but be a little patient.

"You just see it, man, the ball's down the field, the adjustments, the audibles, him coming out there, just feeling comfortable, standing in the pocket. If you really know football and you watch the games, obviously, you can say over the weeks he's getting better."

Facing a Rams defense that consistently brought pressure (eight QB hits, including three by Aaron Donald, and three sacks), Rudolph did a good job standing in the pocket and delivering catchable balls.

The Steelers' offense under Rudolph remains a shaky proposition with fewer big plays and inconsistent production on third downs, but Pittsburgh sees strides being made.

"I think Mason is doing great," Ben Roethlisberger said. "He's doing some really good things. It doesn't matter what comes his way. He stays in the pocket when he needs to. He makes plays when he needs to. I think he's playing awesome. I'm proud of him."

The Steelers have found a formula to win three straight games behind a suffocating defense and an offense that gets just enough production. At some point down the stretch, however, they'll need Rudolph to make a play to beat a good team in a tough spot. That situation could come Thursday at Cleveland in a pivotal game for playoff positioning.

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