It certainly is hard to read too much into anything that transpires during a rookie minicamp and especially when one is not present to observe the practices. With that said, it sure sounds like two of the Pittsburgh Steelers early-round draft picks this year, wide receiver James Washington and quarterback Mason Rudolph, are picking right back up where they left off at Oklahoma State.
According to Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin at the conclusion of the team’s second rookie minicamp practice of 2018 on Saturday, Washington, the teams second-round selection, and Rudolph, the first of the team’s two third-round draft picks two weekends ago, are just a few young players who have impressed him so far.
“Some draft picks, some noteworthy guys, are showing their pedigree, if you will, which is expected on day two,” Tomlin said Saturday afternoon. “Guys made some plays this morning. Mason [Rudolph] made some plays this morning, James Washington and others.”
According to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com via Steelers wide receiver Marcus Tucker, who spent the 2017 season on the team’s practice squad, Rudolph indeed “made some plays” during the team’s Saturday rookie minicamp practice. Tucker was quoted as saying that Rudolph made seven straight completions during team drills during one of the team’s first two practices. And for whatever it’s worth, Tucker added that Rudolph appears to have a strong arm, throws a nice ball and has a strong command of the offensive huddle during practices.
After the team’s first rookie minicamp practice on Friday, Washington, who caught 225 total passes for 4,467 yards and 39 touchdowns at Oklahoma State with most of those coming via passes from Rudolph, called his former college teammate a “perfectionist.”
“He doesn’t like to be sloppy,” Washington said of Rudolph following the Steelers Friday practice. “If it’s sloppy, he’s going to redo it no matter what. That’s something that will help him at this next level.”
While Rudolph has reportedly represented himself well during the team’s first two rookie minicamp practices, he apparently had several poor under-the-center exchanges during the Friday session and that’s not too terribly surprising being as spent most of his time at Oklahoma State receiving snaps out of a shotgun formation.
“I’m doing pretty well at it,” Rudolph said following Friday’s practice about his work so far under center. “I’ve had a little bit of a crash-course these last couple of months, the Senior Bowl, combine and I’ve been working on it at my pro day. So, whenever I get some guys together, it’s always been under center. So, there was a couple balls on the ground today, but that’s to be expected with a new quarterback/center exchange. So, we’ll work through that and we’ll get better.”
It will now be interesting to watch the continued progression of Washington and Rudolph throughout the remainder of the offseason and specifically the former, as there’s a good chance he’ll see quite a bit of playing time during his rookie season as the team’s No. 3 wide receiver after the Steelers traded away wide receiver Martavis Bryant to the Oakland Raiders during the first-round of the 2018 NFL Draft.
The Steelers conveniently used that third-round draft pick they received from the Raiders in exchange for Bryant to ultimately draft Rudolph, who at best, will be the No. 2 quarterback behind starter Ben Roethlisberger at some point during his rookie season. At worst, Rudolph will ultimately start his rookie season in Pittsburgh as the Steelers No. 3 quarterback behind Roethlisberger and his current backup, Landry Jones.
“My role is day by day,” Rudolph said after Friday’s practice. “I’m just going to come out here. Obviously, I’m not starting. I’m looking forward to working with Josh [Dobbs] and Landry [Jones] and Ben [Roethlisberger] and then like I said, maximizing these reps with these guys, with all these rookies out here, kind of bonding together, getting our chemistry right and then working in the next phase of OTAs.”