Ever since the Steelers drafted Mason Rudolph in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft, the former Oklahoma State star has had to wonder when his time would come.
Considered one of the top quarterback prospects in that deep draft class, Rudolph made a precipitous slide down the draft board before the Steelers called his name early on the third day.
The only problem with that arrangement was the presence of All-Pro quarterback Ben Roethlisberger cemented at the top of the Pittsburgh depth chart. While Josh Allen, Sam Darnold, Lamar Jackson, Baker Mayfield and Josh Rosen were all selected before Rudolph in the draft. All of those guys saw a significant amount of playing time in their rookie years. Rudolph wasn’t necessarily thrilled with the thought of that.
“You want to play, you’re pissed (in that moment),” Rudolph said.
When Roethlisberger signed a three-year contract extension this summer, it looked like Rudolph might be relegated to permanent purgatory.
But the NFL has certainly lived up to its nickname — Not For Long — in the 2019 season. Rudolph has gone from third in the pecking order this spring to the full-time starter after Roethlisberger’s season was ended with an elbow injury that will require surgery.
With Roethlisberger out indefinitely, Rudolph’s game will really be tested throughout the remainder of the season.
“I am completely confident in myself, being a leader of a team, and playing games,” Rudolph said. “That’s what it all comes down to. If (Roethlisberger is out), I’m ready to roll.”
Rudolph started the second half of Sunday’s game against Seattle. He threw for 112 yards and two passing touchdowns on 12-of-19 passing and his one interception was caused by wide receiver Donte Moncrief’s dropped pass.
Rudolph talked Monday on what will be different with how he prepares for this Sunday, knowing he will be the main guy.
“Nothing different from me, I’m just going to be the same person I am,” he said. “Continue to prepare … I try to prepare like I am a starter even when I’m not.”
Rudolph knows what the opportunity entails and the expectations that will come along with that.
“I’m excited,” he said. “I’m going to do what I’ve always done and step up to the plate.”
Roethlisberger won’t be taking any more snaps this year. But Rudolph knows that Roethlisberger’s expertise will still play a major role in how the team and Rudolph will be able to grow this season.
“Our relationship definitely seems to have grown this year,” said Rudolph “He’s been great with kind of opening up to myself, and the rest of the guys in the room … I’m going to continue to lean on him and meet with him as much as I can during the week.”
Rudolph will get his first start in the NFL Sunday in San Francisco, on the road against the 2-0 49ers.
“I’m getting to play football and fulfill dream,” he said. “I’ll hopefully be playing this game for a long time and as long as I’m prepared for the opportunity that’s all that matters.”