While the Pittsburgh Steelers are taking the same three quarterbacks into the 2019 season as they did a year ago, we now know, albeit unofficially, that the pecking order has changed. Backing up Ben Roethlisberger for his 16th season will be second-year quarterback Mason Rudolph, rather than Joshua Dobbs, who held that role in his own second season while the former was a rookie in 2018.
During the preseason a year ago, Dobbs looked to be on the roster bubble, and had to perform at a high level just to retain a roster spot, which ultimately resulted in Landry Jones being let go and the former Volunteer earning the number two reps.
But Rudolph significantly outperformed Dobbs this time around in his second preseason, completing 28 of 43 passes for 368 yards and four touchdowns, versus one interception, which came on a play in which there was a miscommunication with his wide receiver, James Washington.
The 2018 season was the first in Rudolph’s football life in which he spent so much time on the bench with little or nothing to do, and he talked about the frustrations that came with it before. One thing that he said helped to keep him going and stay motivated was head coach Mike Tomlin and others’ willingness to take his input seriously, a role he’s ready to further in his second season.
“It’s a chance for me to help our team, not that Ben needs any help, but for [offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner] and the staff, I’ll try to be another mind to push in the same direction and make sure we have a good game plan”, the former third-round draft pick told reporters yesterday, via Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
The backup quarterback is not simply the player who is one snap away from taking the field and lining up under center, and that is one of the reasons the Steelers have been reluctant in recent years to have the position manned by a young player. But they have been impressed with the football intelligence of both of their young quarterbacks drafted in recent years.
Rudolph winning the backup job also means that he has shown that he is capable of serving in that role in all capacities, which includes the responsibility for being a second set of eyes for Roethlisberger. That alone is a big step in his development as well.
One additional perk of being the backup to an older quarterback is that you get reps you wouldn’t otherwise. The Steelers have operated for years by giving Roethlisberger scheduled time off during the practice week, which affords the backup to get some work with the ones.
“That will be something to look forward to”, Rudolph told Rutter, “because you go from training camp every day getting a ton of reps to getting weaned down. That will be something to motivate yourself, then just to know you’re one play away”.