It’s been a little over a year since I published my incredibly inappropriate article about Mason Rudolph’s girlfriend where I described her as beautiful, successful in her chosen field and independently wealthy (heck, where are my manners? You can read it by clicking right here).
Therefore, I guess it’s about time I write another article about the 2018 3rd Round pick out of Oklahoma State that makes you type things like, “BTSC should be ashamed!”
If you have an opinion on Rudolph’s overall performance as the Steelers' backup quarterback and occasional starter since 2019, it’s probably of the negative variety. I can’t say that I blame you for that, though. After all, Rudolph has completed 236 of 384 passes for 2,366 yards, 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Not horrible, but not exactly awe-inspiring, either.
Sure, Rudolph’s career record as a starter is 5-4-1, but using that to prop him up doesn't work on many different levels (I believe I’ve tried all of them), so there’s no point in going there anymore.
Stats only tell part of the story when discussing the potential of a quarterback. You also have to factor other things into the evaluation such as the totally unscientific eye test. It’s like a polygraph for quarterback prospects—no, it’s not admissible in court, but, come on, it kind of is.
Poor Rudolph has done little through 17 games to pass anyone’s eye test except maybe the ones administered by his parents and Genie Bouchard, his girlfriend. (Was that a respectful mention of her name?)
The good news is, 17 games is just a drop in the bucket when it comes to evaluating most NFL players—and when I say “most,” I’m talking about the ones who don’t play quarterback.
But even quarterbacks can get a pass on a bad season after already establishing themselves. Take Ben Roethlisberger, for example. In 2006, Roethlisberger completed 280 of 469 passes for 3,513 yards, 18 touchdowns and 23 interceptions. His passer rating for the season was 75.4—the lowest of his career save for the 66.0 he posted in his very-abbreviated 2019 campaign. I don’t have the exact quote because it was a long, long time ago, but when asked about what went wrong in 2006, Roethlisberger basically said, “Hey, sometimes you just have a bad year.”
I know what you’re going to say next. Yes, Roethlisberger suffered a lot of physical trauma in ‘06—including a horrific motorcycle accident, an appendectomy and a concussion—but let’s be honest, had Roethlisberger posted those kinds of numbers during his rookie campaign—before 15-1, The Tackle and the elusive One for the Thumb—he could have injured himself falling off a cliff while saving a litter of puppies and the fans wouldn’t have given him any slack.
Many would have quickly come to the conclusion that Roethlisberger just wasn’t the future for the Steelers at the quarterback spot.
Like I alluded to earlier, quarterback is the one position where you simply don’t get a ton of time to show what you can do. Once an opinion is formed on a passer’s abilities, it tends to harden fast.
Making matters worse for Rudolph is the fact that he’s a backup; his 17 career appearances have occurred over the span of three seasons, which probably makes the amount of time he’s put in thus far seem longer.
Fortunately for Rudolph, he still has time to change the perception of his play. Will it be easy? Heck no. For one thing, it seems like a lot of folks really hate his guts. Can’t say why other than it’s how Steelers fans have reacted to quarterbacks not named Big Ben my entire life. Just ask Terry Bradshaw.
Speaking of Bradshaw, after he left, this is how people felt about every Steelers quarterback before Roethlisberger came along: Hated him. Hated him. Hated him. Kind of liked him for a while. Hated him. Nothing’d him as a starter after kind of cheering him on as a backup. Made his life a living hell and even wanted Kent Graham to start in his place. Loved him and then threw garbage on his lawn. Loved him because he was from Steel Valley, had a dog and was a backup.
I think that just about covers it.
This might be sacrilegious to say, but Bradshaw is Rudolph’s best example of a quarterback who initially got absolutely zero respect from the fans as a quarterback and even a person before doing a 180 and having them revere him as a god-like figure by the time he left town.
Sure, it left Bradshaw emotionally scarred for life, but that’s another story.
Anyway, Rudolph may not be Bradshaw, and he may not have even an ounce of his talent, but it appears Rudolph is going to be given a fair chance to change some minds in 2022. The chances of him doing that are probably slim, but what if he does it? What if Rudolph turns the corner over his next 17 games and really shows improvement? What if he begins to lead with confidence and pass with more zip? What if more experience in Matt Canada's offense leads to more poise in the pocket? What if Rudolph’s teammates begin to believe in him and protect him on the level of a Roethlisberger?
What if Rudolph goes on to become a damn good quarterback?
Speaking of stories, what a magnificent one that would be, right? I can just picture the post-retirement book title now: “Won’t you Guide My Team Tonight: The Mason Rudolph Story.”
Head coach Mike Tomlin will most likely be the Santa that asks Rudolph to lead his team into the future if he can be convinced of it, which brings me to my second thing. It really doesn’t matter what the fans think of Rudolph or how much they appear to personally hate him (it’s really a thing). What matters is what his coaches think of his play, and they’ve had four seasons to evaluate it both during games and in practice.
Have Rudolph’s bosses already made up their minds? Do they like Kenny Pickett and/or Malik Willis as much as some have already stated? And those rumors about Tomlin wanting a veteran quarterback to replace Roethlisberger in 2022, are they real?
Oh yeah, and how do they really feel about Dwayne Haskins?
Part of me hopes that Rudolph truly does get a fair shake in 2022 and balls-out hard.
I’d like to read his future book.