PITTSBURGH — When the Steelers used a third-round pick on Mason Rudolph in the 2018 NFL Draft, many considered him as a potential heir apparent to starter Ben Roethlisberger, who had publicly considered retirement.
When Roethlisberger signed a contact extension through 2021, it seemed that the need for a replacement in the short term had lessened to the point that the pick invested in Rudolph could have been better spent elsewhere.
But Rudolph won the Steelers’ backup quarterback job with strong play throughout the 2019 preseason, showing a great improvement over his rookie season and providing a glimpse of his true potential as a possible future replacement Roethlisberger.
Head coach Mike Tomlin made that decision official on Tuesday, and talked about how Rudolph was able to sway his decision to unseat incumbent Josh Dobbs.
“He took very good care of the ball,” Tomlin said. “He showed the natural maturation process that we expect from second year players. He showed up in great physical condition. I think he showed a guy that has been a lap around the track in that regard. I think it set the stage for a more consistent performance. I think he has grown a lot in terms of his understanding of how we attack people and his role within the offense, and I think it showed within his play. All of those are reasons why he is the backup quarterback.”
But Tomlin cautioned that like all jobs, the backup quarterback for each week will be decided on a day-by-day basis.
“It is all very fluid just like all of our jobs,” Tomlin said. “I think one of the things you have to relay to a team, particularly at this portion of the season, particularly because we have a lot of young guys that are living out their dreams, guys wanting to make the 53-man roster, et cetera. They will continually earn those roles in those positions in the group day to day. It never ends. There is no opportunity to breathe a sigh of relief, if you will.
“It won’t be for Mason. It won’t be for any of us. He better earn that second quarterback job daily. If not, Dobbs will be waiting. That is just the nature of this thing at this level. We relayed that, not only to the quarterbacks but to all of the guys. This is just the beginning for us. How we proceed the division of labor, what we ask guys to do, the amount of which we ask guys to do, whether or not they continue to be here is based on performance. That is just professional football.”