Fichtner on Rudolph: 'That's playing the position'

The situation was about to go from bad to disastrous, but quarterback Mason Rudolph found an answer.

Already trailing, 14-0, midway through the second quarter on Monday night against Miami and faced with a third-and-11 from the Steelers' 5-yard line, Rudolph hit wide receiver Diontae Johnson at the sticks for 12 yards and a first down the Steelers desperately needed.

Rather than punt from their end zone, the Steelers cobbled together a 12-play, 70-yard drive to the Dolphins' 24-yard line and kicked a field goal.

And Rudolph found a bit of a rhythm that contributed mightily to a 27-14, come-from-behind triumph.

"I was proud of that drive in general but that play started it," offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner said of the Rudolph-to-Johnson third-down conversion. "And I think it might have even given (Rudolph) a little confidence.

"You gotta be able to do that. He made a play that presented itself. He read it perfectly, we had perfect protection, the route was perfect and he put it in a perfect spot. I just said a lot of 'perfects' and I know we're not perfect, but that's playing the position.

"He did what he was supposed to do on that play. He put a perfect ball on him."

ESPN's statistical accounting had Rudolph at 0-for-5 with an interception on passes that had traveled 10 or more yards prior to the had-to-have-it, 12-yard completion to Johnson.

"I was just happy the way we battled out of that situation knowing if we don't do this, field position game's gonna get flipped, they're gonna have another chance to score," Rudolph said. "I don't know if I'd call that a turning point. You have confidence in yourself to go out and score and complete passes from any area of the field but that got us moving, kept moving the chains."

Rudolph got the Steelers into the end zone for the second time on the night and into the lead for the first time all evening with a 26-yard fade to wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster that made it 17-14 with 3:16 left in the third quarter.

Smith-Schuster was covered tightly by cornerback Chris Lammons but made a circus catch.

That was more of a confirmation than a confidence-builder, Rudolph maintained.

"I've seen him do that for a year now," Rudolph said of Smith-Schuster's acrobatics. "When you're the one throwing it to him, there for sure is (a trust factor involved).

"In-helmet experiences, seeing that happen, seeing it take place in practice as well as in the game, and then seeing it come to fruition, that definitely adds the trust factor."

Rudolph is that much further ahead of the game heading into Sunday's battle with Indianapolis after making a couple of plays, in particular, that proved critical.

The fade to Smith-Schuster changed the scoreboard.

The third-down conversion to Johnson changed field position, which is the next best thing.

"You magnify that given the circumstances of the game to that point and knowing that you're backed up," Fichtner said of the Johnson completion. "You don't want to give any quarterback the ball at midfield.

"If we don't score, we have to move field position. We gotta change the field position to help our team. We talk about it all the time."

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