There is no questioning who the starting quarterback is for the Pittsburgh Steelers. That is clearly No. 7, Ben Roethlisberger. But who will be the primary backup in 2019 is quite the debate among the fan base.
Joshua Dobbs, who is entering his third year with the team coming out of Tennessee, was the surprise player of 2018 when the Steelers trimmed their roster to 53 players last year. If you recall, everyone expected Landry Jones to remain with the team, and Dobbs to be given his outright release. What happened was Jones became unemployed, and Dobbs was promoted as the team’s primary backup.
The competition wasn’t just about Dobbs and Jones. Mason Rudolph, the team’s 3rd round pick out of Oklahoma State in the 2018 draft, came into the organization with a different feel about him. While Dobbs was almost universally thought of as a career backup, Rudolph was perceived to be the possible heir to the Steelers’ quarterback throne.
As a rookie, Rudolph didn’t even dress for a game in 2018, rather he simply watched and learned — a tough thing to do for someone who had started every game at quarterback since his sophomore year in High School. But don’t let that skew the way you view Rudolph’s approach to the game, and especially to the upcoming workouts in the offseason.
“I need to do a lot,” Rudolph told Teresa Varley of the Steelers official website. “I need to keep our offense fresh in my mind this offseason. The last thing you want to do is not revisit stuff and look back at Week 2 and say what did we call here, what was effective, what could we have called better, what worked.
“You have to do a self-scout evaluation of each game, even if you weren’t playing. Go back and watch it again and stay in the playbook.”
This offseason Rudolph hasn’t just been reviewing the playbook, but has elicited the help of a quarterbacks coach to help him with his mechanics and decision-making.
“I had a quarterback’s coach I worked with,” said Rudolph. “Any time you can get a pair of eyes on you that aren’t completely involved in the game plan that are just looking at you, are seeing your mechanics and ways to improve you. Randy (Fichtner) is one of the best quarterback coaches in the league. But to have someone else helps. It’s a different dynamic when you don’t have the stress of the season going on, a different set of eyes on you. It’s all going to help me.”
Year 2 for NFL players, especially quarterbacks, is night-and-day different from Year 1 in so many ways. Rudolph will not only get to spend the entire offseason in Pittsburgh, and participate in all workouts leading up to OTAs, but he knows the players and the system, something which couldn’t have been said shortly after he was drafted in 2018.
“I keep hitting up the receivers and the guys you are going to spend time with in OTAs and making sure they are constantly trying to better themselves and they are learning,” Rudolph told Varley. “Now that I have almost as full year under my belt I have the relationships. It’s easy to get on the phone with a guy and review something or get in person with them and kind of talk through some specific routes.”
Doesn’t sound like a backup quarterback, does it? Not to me. In my opinion, it sounds like a guy just waiting for his opportunity. For the sake of the Steelers, you hope Roethlisberger stays healthy, but for the sake of the future most would say they hope Rudolph is the one who wins the backup job in 2019 and takes the next step in his progression as the potential future quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers.