Mason Rudolph will hit free agency in March. While the Steelers have told him they would like to have him back, that is no certainty. But even with that in mind, Rudolph’s career has experienced a resurgence. In a four-game sample size, he went from someone with little free agency market to someone who could make some noise.
Joining the Ramon Foster Show, Rudolph talked about what the opportunity meant to him, but more importantly, that he looks up to Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith. After a disastrous stint with the Jets when they picked him in the second round, Smith bounced around as a backup quarterback until Seattle gave him the starting job. He has turned that into one of the surprise stories of the past few years. Rudolph hopes to join that parade.
“It’s a business. That’s what’s great about seeing people like Geno Smith, who I’ve looked up to. Came in, played well, but also had some adversity early in his career and then stayed the course, stayed positive, and developed quite a bit and turned into a heck of a starting quarterback,” Rudolph said. “I think it’s good when you see those kinds of stories because … you see, there’s a lot of football, and I think ‘football justice’ is a real thing. If you stay the course and work hard and you’ve got a good attitude, you’re going to get an opportunity at some point. It might be years down the road. I tried to stay positive in my own situation. So, my answer is yes and no. Players are expected to perform based on where you’re drafted, and quickly. Some people are ready to step up. Our friend Pouncey started as a rookie and played at a high level. Then there’s people who hit their stride later in their career, if they don’t get chewed up and spat out. I think every situation’s different. But it’s inspiring when you see guys who stick it out and get the last laugh.”
Coming off the bench cold is tough, but Rudolph’s play inspired confidence in him from the staff. Tomlin hopes they can get Rudolph back due to his level of play. He played like a fringe starting quarterback in the NFL, and that was a higher level of play than Pittsburgh had received throughout the entire season.
“I don’t think any of us can deny what we’ve seen over the last month or so,” Tomlin said. “I cannot underscore how impressive it is to be ready. Forget performance man, to be ready to deliver. And he was, and that preparedness showed. So certainly we are less speculative about his capabilities because there’s evidence of it.”
The Steelers have moves to make, but their offensive coordinator hire will determine how well they can concoct all of these ideas and meld them together at quarterback. Someone with quarterback guru experience, or at least experience dealing with young quarterbacks, is a big key to all of this. To retain Rudolph, it seems he would need assurances that he could compete for the starting job.