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Mason Rudolph turns to his inner nerd to help him win the Steelers’ backup role

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The Pittsburgh Steelers second year QB is hoping to make a big leap in year two.

NFL: Tennessee Titans at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers don’t have any type of quarterback controversy heading into training camp. Rather, they just signed franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to a hefty new 2-year extension. But this fact doesn’t mean there isn’t a quarterback battle to be had in the Steel City.

The battle I speak of is clearly regarding the backup role. Will it be second year signal caller Mason Rudolph who uses the year under his belt to entrench himself as the team’s primary backup? Or will third year quarterback Joshua Dobbs hold off the Oklahoma State quarterback and keep his spot as QB2 on the depth chart?

While the two quarterbacks won’t truly do battle until they report to training camp at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA this year, Rudolph has used the year under his belt, and his first full offseason, to inundate himself with the playbook and to get better in every possible way.

Now, don’t get this confused with him thinking he is going to be the starter next season. He knows where his battle resides.

“I don’t see myself being No. 1 this year, so that would be the next-best opportunity,” Rudolph told Teresa Varley of Steelres.com. “I’m taking every single day and just competing against myself and the guys around us. Everyone makes everyone better.”

When it comes to who will win the backup job, Rudolph is leaning on his work ethic, and his inner nerd, to get him over the proverbial hump.

“Having the whole offseason to dive into the playbook was big,” said Rudolph. “We didn’t make the playoffs, which was unfortunate. But having four months of deep dives and conversations with the coaching staff and studying. I enjoy that stuff. I can get into a little bit of a nerd mentality in the offseason, but it’s fun. It was fun studying. Now I’m back here, ready to go and put stuff on display.

“I feel a whole lot better just with the comfort of the offense. With the way we approach every day and know the flow of practice. Like seven shots. That was new to me last year, the intensity and the importance. It’s the last play of the game, a two-point conversion or touchdown situation and just how quick everything happens down there. I got a year under my belt. I feel more prepared. I know the schemes we call down there.”

To think there was a culture shock going from a Big 12 school like Oklahoma State to the NFL is a huge understatement. Rudolph had a lot to learn, and this was evident in the preseason. Then again, if you look back at Dobbs’ rookie season you saw a lot of the same mistakes being made. Dobbs took a big step in year two, and now it is Rudolph’s turn to do the same. It should be different for Rudolph with the culture shock of the National Football League worn off.

“It was a shock, a culture shock,” said Rudolph. “I love reps, practicing, competing with my teammates. I got a lot of reps (in practice), especially on a Wednesday when Ben didn’t go. There were things to look forward to, work with. But it stunk.”

The Steelers’ fan base has had a growing interest in Rudolph since the day he was selected in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Could this be the future quarterback for the Steelers? Or is he just another backup to Ben Roethlisberger? Unfortunately, no one knows what will pan out, but it is safe to say Rudolph is doing everything in his power to not just win the QB2 job, but to supplant himself as the next one up if Roethlisberger goes down, or decides to hang up the cleats for good.