When the Pittsburgh Steelers traded up in the third round with the Seattle Seahawks to select Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph, many saw him as the future of the position in Pittsburgh.
Throughout offseason workouts, Rudolph impressed and fans didn’t care if it was just ‘football in shorts’, the excitement was palpable throughout the fan base. As training camp came, Rudolph has had moments of brilliance, but more moments of struggle. For fans who may be disappointed to hear this, they should remember the situation Rudolph finds himself in. Learning behind Ben Roethlisberger, and getting comfortable with simple things like taking a snap under center, could be just what the doctor ordered for his future success.
After all, not every rookie quarterback is Roethlisberger, who won 15 games in a row and was bolstered by a ridiculous defense and running game.
Nonetheless, Rudolph acknowledges the transition from college to the NFL hasn’t been easy. In fact, it has been tough.
“Mentally for me, it’s been tough,” Rudolph admitted to Tim Benz of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “But it’s a lot more comfortable getting under center. That was big, and I think I addressed that. I really cleaned up a lot of the quarterback/center-exchange issues. We had a couple in OTAs. And I’m just a lot more comfortable.”
For a young man, Rudolph is as polished as they come. When it comes to professional athletes who just have the knack to address media, and be as professional as possible, I compare him to another star down the road — the Penguins’ Sidney Crosby.
This isn’t to predict Rudolph will attain superstar status as Crosby has in the NHL, not that this would be a bad thing, but let’s just say Rudolph understands how to work the media. His coordinator, Randy Fichtner, gives an accurate description of how he has been progressing.
“He’s working. He’s doing a nice job,” Fichtner said. “It’s in-helmet perspective. That takes time to develop. Change of pace. The whole game is different. It’s always going to be different. That transition isn’t easy, and he is playing the position where the transition is the hardest.”
Throughout camp, and likely throughout the preseason, Rudolph will be under duress both physically and mentally. He won’t be afforded the time, and pocket, to pass like Ben Roethlisberger will behind the starting line. But it shouldn’t derail him from his progress.
“That’s football though,” Fichtner said of the lack of time Rudolph has had to throw. “That’s a good evaluation. That’s what the preseason is going to be like. He won’t see (first team) snaps for a long time.”
Rudolph will put on the black-and-gold jersey for the first time with his new teammates Thursday night, and fans will be watching to see how he performs. No one knows if it will be against the Eagles’ third or fourth string players, but Rudolph’s performance will be one to watch.
It hasn’t been easy, but the hope is Rudolph’s progression continues tonight when the Steelers and Eagles square off in Week 1 of the NFL preseason.