Under normal circumstances, a team doesn’t even want to remember the name of its backup quarterback. The only good time for him to be in the game is when the offense has blown out your opponent and you pull your starter, with the backup doing little more to hand the ball off to whoever your third-string running back is.
In the case of the Pittsburgh Steelers, they are hoping that the backup to their backup last season, 2018 third-round draft pick Mason Rudolph, can take a huge step forward this year, starting with seizing the backup role from Joshua Dobbs.
Though his future as a potential starter largely rests in the hands of Ben Roethlisberger and how much longer he intends to play—we will get an idea of that after the future Hall of Famer completes the contract extension he is due to receive before the start of the regular season—the reason the Steelers added him in the first place is because they saw starter potential in him.
While he surely was hoping for more out of his rookie season, at least to dress on game days, he still believes that he made a lot of progress while watching from the sidelines. And he did not spend his free time idle, either. He revealed to the team’s website recently that he had been working with an outside quarterbacks coach as well.
“Any time you can get a pair of eyes on you that aren’t completely involved in the game plan that are just looking at you, are seeing your mechanics and ways to improve you”, he said, is an asset. I’m not aware of any other instance known of a Steelers quarterback working with an outside coach (other than Roethlisberger during his suspension), but other position groups have done it frequently.
While he said that Randy Fichtner (who is also their offensive coordinator) “is one of the best quarterback coaches in the league”, he added that “to have someone else helps. It’s a different dynamic when you don’t have the stress of the season going on, a different set of eyes on you. It’s all going to help me”.
The one thing about Rudolph that has always struck me above all else has been the way that he carries himself, both in what he says and what he does. His approach seems to be that of a person capable of leading others and getting the best out of them. That goes a long way toward being a good quarterback in this league.
Where he has to make up ground to keep up with the talent level against professional players is on the field. As a rookie, quite a lot of his time was devoted to simply learning every nook and cranny of the offense.
He was already mechanically pretty sound, but still had some issues that were exposed in the preseason, among them having a better sense of pocket awareness and an internal clock. Will Rudolph make a big jump in performance from year one to year two as we have seen of some other players in the very recent past?