Ben Roethlisberger is gone. Take it for what it is, but for the first in 18 seasons, the Steelers do not have a slam dunk starting quarterback at the position. The future Hall of Famer walked off into the sunset after the Steelers’ loss against the Chiefs on Sunday night. However, that does not mean there are not guys who were on the roster champing at the bit.
Mason Rudolph, who the Steelers drafted out of Oklahoma State in 2018, has been waiting for four years to get his chance. In 2019, he got an extended look, but injuries and inconsistent play left the organization and himself wanting more. He got his extension before the 2021 season, and now with Roethlisberger gone, Rudolph can get his opportunity to compete for the starting job.
“All that I want is a chance to compete and be the guy here,” Rudolph said. “It seems like that’s more of a real possibility now more than ever opposed to the last four years of knowing as long as Ben is healthy, you’re not playing. That’s very exciting and I’m looking forward to the opportunity.”
That 2019 season is a turning point in Rudolph’s career. From now to then, Rudolph has been tirelessly working, even acknowleding how rough that season was for him overall. All within ten weeks, Rudokph faced tremendous adversity. So much so, he viewed it as the most adversity he had ever faced before in his life. That 2019 season hardened Rudolph. Maybe most importantly, he went back to watch the season, and sees himself as a completely different player now.
“Yes, we all want to become a better player each and every year,” Rudolph said. “When I look back, I’ve watched those game this past offseason just out of sheer boredom, just wanting to go back and dissect myself and ask myself the question, ‘where have I come since those starts in ’19? And how have I improved?’ I think there are things that make me laugh, mistakes I made that I wouldn’t have today. Improvements in my game. My body, physically, and my playing style.”
The confidence that Rudolph now exudes for his game is something that has been sharpened and grown over time. Despite acknowledging that there are obvious question marks as well, Rudolph wants to be the quarterback of the Steelers badly. He is ready to overcome the naysayers and prove himself once again.
“That’s all I’ve ever wanted to be was a starting NFL quarterback, and I think I can do it,” Rudolph said. “I have what it takes. I’m ready to get the opportunity again to prove myself. I’ve admitted I understand that what I’ve put on tape in 2019 and up until this point, there’s still question marks on my game, and I want to prove those people wrong, and I want to prove to myself to my teammates and the guys I really care about. It’s one day at a time. Yes, I am excited.”
Rudolph is shutting out the noise from the outside and trying to trudge forward as he faces a competition ahead of him. There is no doubt he will get the opportuntiy to prove himself, but the Steelers likely will bring in outside competition to push both him and Dwayne Haskins.