The Pittsburgh Steelers fan base can be a tough crowd to appease, and few know this the way Mason Rudolph knows this. The third round draft pick has been the main focus of disdain from the fan base, and even in the national media, since he was drafted.
Maybe it was General Manager Kevin Colbert’s comments on how they had a first round grade on Rudolph
Maybe it was the fact he was benched for Devlin “Duck” Hodges in 2019.
Maybe it was the tie in his lone start in 2021 vs. the then winless Detroit Lions.
Whatever the reason, Rudolph seems to constantly have to deal with criticism, and we aren’t talking about an entrenched starter, but a backup quarterback who is just getting his first shot at potentially being the next starting quarterback of the Steelers.
How does he deal with it? Recently while on the Jim Rome Show, Rudolph was asked just this during his segment. Here is what he had to say...
“I understand the barber shop talk.” Rudolph said of criticism from fans and people like Ryan Clark of ESPN. “You play one of the most highly scrutinized positions in all of sport. I never understand the guys who invite it, and then cry wolf at the end. I totally understand it, I enjoy it. I have a lot to prove, and that motivates me, but, yeah, there are people out there, probably 31 teams, who aren’t happy with some part of their team.”
Of course there are athletes in all walks of life who say they don’t read the papers, they don’t hear the sound bytes and don’t check social media. Sure, that sounds great, but is it realistic? Rudolph knows it isn’t easy.
“You try to shut it out, and anyone who says they shut it out completely are telling a bit of a lie.” Rudolph added. “I do let it motivate me, a bit, but you can’t dwell on it. You have to control what you can control.”
When it comes to the opportunity facing Rudolph entering the 2022 offseason, he sees his first four years in the NFL, all behind Ben Roethlisberger, as a positive.
“For me, there aren’t a lot of young quarterbacks who get to come into a team and get to study and watch a Hall of Fame quarterback work.” Rudolph said. “When it comes down to it, situational football, red-zone and two-minute, he was the best...He was clutch. That’s what sticks out to me.”
To a point, it has helped show Rudolph what he wants to be. He wants to be a franchise quarterback, and he would want to do it in Pittsburgh if given the opportunity. What does that look like to Rudolph? Consistency.
“Consistent success.” Rudolph said of being a franchise quarterback. “Being that guy day in and day out. A lot of guys can have a good couple of games, but when you look at players like Ben, you need to have consistent success. You need to be a leader. You need to motivate others, and make others around you better.
“That’s the kind of guy I want to be, and think I can be.”
The Steelers quarterback situation is anything but set in stone at the moment. Rudolph is the only quarterback currently under contract, and Dwayne Haskins is expected to receive a tender as a Restricted Free Agent (RFA). Other than that, anything is possible. The Steelers could add both a free agent quarterback and a signal caller in the 2022 NFL Draft, but for the first time in his career Rudolph is preparing for a job which is actually open. Not just playing for the QB2 spot on the depth chart.
Can Rudolph put his best foot forward and win the job? At this point, anything is possible, but a lot of what happens with Rudolph will come down to how the Steelers address the quarterback position this offseason.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the start of the new league year and the 2022 NFL Draft.