New Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph has worked with second-round wide receiver James Washington for a longer period of time than Ben Roethlisberger has with any of the wide receivers—or tight ends for that matter—on the team’s current roster outside of Antonio Brown. The two spent four years together at Oklahoma State before they were reunited in Pittsburgh via the 2018 NFL Draft.
So it’s understandable that one would have a ready evaluation of the other coming out of their rookie minicamp. It’s not as though they don’t know exactly what each other bring to the table. While Washington clearly has the more immediate path to playing time, much more rides on Rudolph in the long term. And the former doesn’t see the problem in that.
Washington said of working with him that “it’s everything a receiver wants in a quarterback”, according to Lauren Kirschman. Naturally, he said that it was incredibly helpful “just coming in and being familiar with a guy”.
While the two have come in together, they surely understand that they won’t always be working in the same groups. By the next time they take the field, it’s likely that Washington will be running with the first-team offense with Ben Roethlisberger whenever he is out there, or at least getting rotated in.
How much time will Rudolph see? Where will he start in the pecking order once things get going in OTAs? Will he com in behind Landry Jones and Joshua Dobbs? It’s probably easier for a wide receiver to ease between groups than it is for a quarterback. Which is why they value the opportunities they do have to work together, whether on or off the practice field.
“Just to have someone that you’re comfortable around, a familiar face” is an asset, Washington said. “It always helps because if we both have questions, we can ask each other and one of us will usually answer”. It’s not uncommon for rookies to bond in this fashion, but it’s at a whole other level when you’re talking about a four-year quarterback-wide receiver pairing.
The wide receiver called Rudolph a “perfectionist”, which he told Kirschman he believes will be a valuable asset that translates well to the NFL from the college game. “He doesn’t like to be sloppy. If it’s sloppy, he’s going to redo it”, he said.
I’m sure it won’t be too difficult for one to convince the other to put a little extra work in together after practice. While both of them were high draft picks, they each still have a lot to learn, and a lot to prove. Their journey is just getting started at the professional level. But at least they have each other to take that journey with.