While the Pittsburgh Steelers are working out terms on a long-term extension for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, they are also trying to groom not one but two young quarterbacks at the same time. Admittedly, the higher hopes are placed on 2018 third-round draft pick Mason Rudolph—that is necessarily the case, or they would not have wasted a draft pick on him.
Though they view him as the best candidate they’ve ever had to be Roethlisberger’s successor, he nevertheless spent the entirety of his rookie season on the bench during the regular season, with Dobbs suiting up as his backup all year long. Not where he wanted to be, which was on the field.
But he talked about making every opportunity count, recently describing the importance of his practice reps to the team’s website. “That was my Super Bowl for the week”, he said of running the scout team against the starting defense.
“That kept me motivated. Go out there against the starting defense and throw routes, be around the guys, be involved. That was fun”, he said. “It’s what I looked forward to. The days I wasn’t getting reps I manufactured ways to stay sharp, to stay fresh mentally and physically. That is just a part of the process”.
Rudolph likely got most of his work on Wednesday, where Roethlisberger was given a veteran’s day off nearly every week of the season, and by simple mathematics, it’s reasonable to conclude that there are more reps available per quarterback when only two are practicing rather than three.
But it wasn’t just the on-field work that he prepared for as though it were his Super Bowl. He was also diligent in the classroom. “I was like a huge sponge every week trying to take notes on each opponent, keep the notes”, he said, adding that Head Coach Mike Tomlin “recommended that to be able to go back and refer to those notes and refresh your memory a little bit”.
He also said that he held weekly meetings with his head coach in order to go over the gameplan for Sunday (or whenever the next game would be) to make preparations for facing the upcoming defense—in spite of the fact that he would literally be ineligible to face that defense because he would be on the inactive list.
“I met with Coach Tomlin once a week to find out his keys to the game and his insight onto what we need to attack on their defense. That really helped. All of the knowledge on our staff helped”, he said. “I made the best of it and I think I came out as a better player”.
His first crack at showing how much of a better player he became during his first season in the NFL will come in early May following the 2019 NFL Draft during OTAs. At that point will begin his push to surpass Dobbs as Roethlisberger’s backup.