During the 2018 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers were wheeling and dealing. The team sent troubled wide receiver Martavis Bryant to the Oakland Raiders for a third round draft pick. What happened with that pick? The Steelers swapped it with the Seattle Seahawks to move up in the third round to take Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph.
Many Steelers fans were extremely happy, and excited, with the pick. For once, it seemed as if the organization was planning for life without Ben Roethlisberger, who had flirted with retirement before Todd Haley was told he no longer was employed by the organization.
Rudolph’s road to the NFL wasn’t a breeze considering Roethlisberger’s comments on the selection, and how he won’t be worried about helping a young quarterback get acclimated to life in the NFL.
Nonetheless, Rudolph found himself in a very unusual position.
Since his sophomore year in High School, Rudolph has been a starting quarterback, not someone holding a clipboard and having to watch someone else in practice. Yet, there he was, running the scout team offense and getting minimal reps on the Wednesdays Ben Roethlisberger was given the day off.
Otherwise, the offensive reps were few and far between. Could a year like this be viewed as a wash? Not according to Rudolph.
“I was telling my college coach that I talk to a lot, beginning of the season I was like, ‘Wow, NFL football, it’s crazy,’ ” Rudolph told Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “And then the middle of the season, I was like, ‘I’m really starting to understand this, just the way the week flows, to game day.’
“And then the last couple weeks (of the season), it was, ‘I can play now if I had to.’ ”
While Rudolph clearly admits him not being thrust into a starting role could be viewed as beneficial, it doesn’t make sitting the bench any easier.
Of not playing (outside of the preseason), Rudolph said, “ No doubt, it’s tough .”
“It’s weird. It’s different,” he said. “But I’m making the best of it. I’ve tried to get that competitive adrenaline rush in practice as much as I can.”
How in the world can a quarterback do that? Rudolph has developed not just a clear understanding of the offense, but a more specific knowledge base about situational football, and what the team wants to do in almost every situation.
“Just a general understanding of the offense has improved so much,” Rudolph said, “Learning (for example) what we call or run in OTAs and what we actually run when it gets nut-cutting time. What are Ben’s favorite calls? What are our base concepts that we’re going to use every week? What’s most efficient for us? So that’s cool to see how the gameplan gets cut down through the week as it gets later in the week.
“Obviously, physically I have been staying in shape, doing whatever I can do to maximize my reps. But mentally there’s a lot to allow for to stay sharp.”
As stated earlier, Rudolph is just patiently waiting for his shot. As the 2019 season approaches, the next step in him seeing the field in a regular season game will come by beating out Joshua Dobbs for the backup quarterback spot in training camp. This will be one of the many training camp battles to watch, and Rudolph is ready.
“I am definitely chomping at the bit, but you’ve just got to stay patient. And I know that God has got a plan.”