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Though it’s a common expectation around the NFL, Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin may more than anybody else drill home the point that the expectation is for their players to make the biggest leaps in their careers heading into their second season.
While it’s generally true that many players see their most significant growth in their second year, after having gotten a season of play and learning under their belt, it is also a means of motivating the young players. For 2019, that means it’s the 2018 draft class that is under the microscope.
And there have been some positive results on that front already. Terrell Edmunds has come in fit and ready to play. James Washington made a number of plays during the first preseason game. And quarterback Mason Rudolph had the best showing of the three quarterbacks the Steelers put on the field on Friday.
Though he didn’t play a ton, roughly a quarter or so, he completed five of eight passes for 91 yards and two touchdowns. Even if the bulk of that came on a 59-yard catch-and run by Johnny Holton, Rudolph came up with several nice plays, including a pair of great touchdown passes to Washington and Zach Gentry.
Most importantly, however, he looked comfortable and confident. “Games are always different, but the way I’ve been feeling in practice and in my second year, coming along, I’m more comfortable”, he told Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review after the game. “I wasn’t worried about how I was going to throw it in a game”.
One of Rudolph’s defining traits as a prospect in the pre-draft process was always his poise and demeanor, the way in which he carried himself, the confidence that comes up just shy of cockiness. He projects leadership qualities, and his college teammate, Washington, has noted that he has been more comfortable in showing that this offseason.
The second-year quarterback has, in fact, spent much of his time this offseason when interviewed discussing how much more comfortable he feels this year, and as a result is also having more fun back on the field again after going through so much of the learning process during his rookie season.
This year, he knows the expectation is that he is able to outperform Joshua Dobbs and take over the backup quarterback position behind starter Ben Roethlisberger. While it’s not going to get him cut if he fails to do so, it would certainly be met with a sense of disappointment.