Mason Rudolph gets opportunity to lead Steelers offense
Now that he’s the Pittsburgh Steelers starting quarterback for the foreseeable future, Mason Rudolph feels freer to open up about how difficult being third string was as a rookie last season.
Although Rudolph is wise enough to recognize there plenty of quarterbacks had successful NFL careers that began as a bench player, living that is easier said than done.
“People are coming … and telling you that (many quarterbacks have waited for their NFL shot), and that’s all fine and dandy,” Rudolph said Monday. “But in the moment, you are still kind of, you know, you want to play. You’re (ticked).”
Rudolph was far from celebratory or joyous under the circumstances that begot it – the season-ending surgery scheduled for Ben Roethlisberger’s elbow – but he was anything but ticked Monday.
Rudolph will make his first NFL start Sunday at the San Francisco 49ers. Barring injury, he figures to be the starter the rest of the season.
After last season ended, Mason Rudolph opened up about how difficult it was going from possible top-10 pick to being a #3 QB on his own team in 2018. Just even more interesting to look back on now with context: https://t.co/nNhNChv0VN
— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) September 16, 2019
“It’s a crazy turn of events with an injury, but I’m excited to step up,” Rudolph said. “That’s what backups do. That’s what I’ve done my entire career, whether it be high school, college or now. Nothing different for me. I’m going to be the same person I am and continue to prepare like I’m the starter when I’m not, and I’m going to continue to do that: do my weekly routine and put a good gameplan together with the staff and go execute.”
Rudolph was lumped into what some were calling a historically deep and quality quarterbacks class in 2018 alongside Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen and Lamar Jackson.
But when the dust cleared on that draft, those five went in the first round (all but Jackson being taken in the top 10) – and Rudolph waited until the middle of the third round to be picked up by the Steelers.
That the Steelers had a first-round grade on Rudolph — and they traded up three spots to grab him — was of little consolation to him, mostly because of the circumstance. With Roethlisberger, the Steelers had a franchise quarterback in place.
Worse, the Steelers invested a similar mid-round pick (fourth) in 2017 on a quarterback, Josh Dobbs. And with a year’s head start in the offense, Dobbs won the No. 2 job last season. That meant a dearth of practice reps for Rudolph as a rookie.
“It’s weird. It’s different,” Rudolph said of his rookie season as it was ending in January.
Reflecting back on it Monday was more pleasant . The work Rudolph quietly put in then will, he hopes, begin to pay off.
“I tried to have a long-term mentality (as a rookie) and understand that, hopefully, I will be playing this game a long time (and one year on the bench won’t mean much),” Rudolph said. “And as long as I’m ready for my opportunity, that’s kind of all that matters.”
— Tribune-ReviewSports (@TribSports) September 16, 2019
James Washington said Rudolph is ready, and he might be the one person in the Steelers’ locker room who knows best. The receiver has been a teammate of Rudolph’s for six years, the first four at Oklahoma State.
Rudolph was scheduled for a redshirt as the third-string quarterback in 2014. But after J.W. Walsh and Daxx Garman suffered injuries, Rudolph was the starter for the final three games of the season.
“It just sparked him,” Washington said. “He’s a student of the game.
“He’s just a leader. He steps in. He does what he’s told. He puts in film work when he needs to – and when his number is called, he’s ready to go.”
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .