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'I'm thinking about the next pass'

The first pass Mason Rudolph attempted in training camp wound up slipping from his grasp and bouncing backwards.

The rookie didn't get rattled.

"I could care less about the first pass," the Steelers' third-round quarterback insisted when the subject was broached a week or so later. "I'm thinking about the next pass."

It was much the same against the Packers.

Rudolph's first passing attempt in his first preseason start on Thursday night in Green Bay was intercepted and returned 25 yards for a touchdown.

A mere 13 seconds into the game, the Steelers trailed, 7-0.

Rudolph's next throw fell incomplete.

And before he could attempt another, the offense was penalized 5 yards for delay of game.

"Not the way you want to start at all," Rudolph acknowledged in the immediate aftermath at Lambeau Field. "But I was happy with the way we responded as an offense, came back, put points on the board.

"Just like any other game, a lot to learn from. I felt more comfortable out there, just the second game, but a lot of mistakes to correct on the tape."

The Steelers ended up losing, 51-34. But the third and fourth drives of the night found the end zone, initially on a 26-yard burst for a touchdown by running back James Conner and then again on a 4-yard dart from Rudolph to wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster.

Those two possessions brought the Steelers all the way back from an early, 14-0 deficit.

Unfortunately for Rudolph and the Steelers, that turned out to be it in terms of scoring in the first two quarters.

"I thought his demeanor was good," head coach Mike Tomlin said. "We didn't play as well, and he's not alone in terms of that. I just thought we were a little tentative offensively and didn't make enough plays in the early going."

Rudolph finished 5-for-12 passing for 47 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

He also fumbled after taking a sack in the second quarter (Rudolph subsequently recovered), as he had twice in the preseason opener on Aug.9 at Philadelphia (once on a sack and once on a center-quarterback exchange).

But Rudolph's ability to play through the tough start was reflective of the willingness he's demonstrated since OTAs to acknowledge, process and work to correct mistakes.

"It happens," he said. "It happens at every level, high school, college. You just have to respond and play the next play. That's the way I've always felt. I just went out there and played the next drive, clean slate, that's the mindset.

"The offensive line did a great job, both the first and second group. We ran the ball awesome, moved the ball, stalled out a couple drives. I have to be more decisive on some snaps."

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