The Pittsburgh Steelers are about to embark on a season where nothing is certain. With Ben Roethlisberger calling it a career after 18 seasons, the unknown factor entering 2022 is who will be the quarterback when next season begins. Before the new league year begins March 16th, and the 2022 NFL Draft in late April, the front-runner to be “the guy” for Pittsburgh is none other than Mason Rudolph.
Rudolph, the only quarterback currently under contract with the team, recently joined the Jim Rome Show to talk all things Steelers. One of the main topics of conversation surrounded offensive coordinator Matt Canada and his offense.
For the first time since he was drafted, Rudolph will enter the offseason with not just a grasp of Canada’s offense, but also knowing he has an actual shot at being the quarterback for the team in 2022.
“Having an entire offseason with a different mindset.” Rudolph told Rome. “The last few years, yeah, you prepare like you are the starter, but when you get back to camp there is a Hall of Fame quarterback there who is the starter.
“I’m excited for the opportunity and to have a chance to be the starting quarterback is all you can ask for.”
When it comes to being the starting quarterback, being able to run the team’s offense will be paramount. And on that subject, Rudolph mentioned how fans might see a very different offense in 2022, compared to the 2021 offense which was still tailored around what Ben Roethlisberger liked doing, not necessarily what Canada would have liked to do.
“I like Matt [Canada], and I’m excited to take that next step.” Rudolph added. “There were some concepts, there were some things Ben had run, and was comfortable with, for 10 years. No matter who the coordinator was, he was tied to some concepts. There was a mesh between him and the coordinator. You get that leeway when you’re an 18 year future Hall of Fame quarterback.
“I’m excited for this year, to have that dialogue with Matt and move forward with his bread-and-butter. He’s a play action guy, a push the ball down the field guy, and that suits my style well.”
When you see Rudolph talking about things like being under center, play action passes and pushing the ball downfield, you can almost immediately understand how what Canada wanted to do didn’t mesh with what Roethlisberger was comfortable with doing at the end of his career. Again, this wasn’t breaking news to anyone who knew the 2021 offense wouldn’t be the best reflection of Canada’s system with Roethlisberger at the helm.
One question Rome asked Rudolph which was poignant was just how much he felt he could improve being just a backup since he was drafted out of Oklahoma State. It isn’t easy, but Rudolph made the best of his situation.
“I think practice reps are big, and through the season there were days when Ben, being a veteran quarterback, didn’t practice as much. Those were advantageous days for me. You have to make the most out of them, you have to treat those days like a game, and that’s what I did.”
Ultimately, the Steelers’ roster is going to look vastly different this season, compared to last. Nonetheless, different doesn’t somehow mean worse, and Rudolph sees these roster changes as a team in transition, but not being a bad thing.
“I think we do have a good team. A great defense, and a lot of good players, we have some weapons. Have a lot of young receiving talent and a running back who is a work horse who had a sensational rookie year.
“I think having an offense that’s always tailored to someone else, to Ben. I think this year you’re going to see some changes and added play action pass, under center, open up the offense and push the ball down the field. Some of the things I enjoy doing, and like doing, and that’s exciting.
“We have a great group of guys, veteran leadership, especially on the defensive side of the ball.” Rudolph said.
Of course, there is going to be a quarterback battle in 2022, and Rudolph acknowledges this simple fact. As the only quarterback on the roster heading into the new league year, there is a good chance Rudolph will be competing not just against Dwayne Haskins, who is expected to be tendered, but also a free agent and/or a rookie signal caller.
“No matter what competition, I’m never going to shy away from that.” Rudolph said. “We know they’re going to add to the room. I’m excited for the opportunity to compete.”
Could Rudolph, given the opportunity, be better suited for Canada’s offense? It certainly is possible, but both Canada and Rudolph have a lot to prove this upcoming season.
For a short portion of the conversation, check the player below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the new league year and the 2022 NFL Draft.