The Pittsburgh Steelers have been given little choice but to move ahead into the 2019 season with 14 games remaining fielding an offense with an inexperienced quarterback in Mason Rudolph. Their first of two selections in the third round a year ago, he made his NFL debut last week in his second game dressing in the league.
But that will be the norm for the rest of the 2019 season, given that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who will soon be having surgery on his throwing elbow, has already been placed on the Reserve/Injured List. That doesn’t mean, however, that he won’t be an active presence.
Earlier this week, when asked how much he plans on picking Roethlisberger’s brain going forward, he told reporters, “as much as he lets me. When you’re the backup, you don’t want to overburden the starter with questions, but he’s been great with answering them. Our relationship definitely seems to have grown this year”. He added, “he’s done a great job of opening up to myself and the rest of the guys in the room”.
And that now includes Devlin Hodges as Rudolph’s direct backup, he has also said that Roethlisberger has taken him in since he’s been here, even as a rookie minicamp tryout. On Thursday, Rudolph said that the 37-year-old texted him earlier in the week to show his support.
“He’s rooting for me and wants to be there for us, and me and the team, moving forward”, he said in summarizing the message, emphasizing that he remains a presence. “You saw him out there today. He’s the leader of this team. It was great to see him. I kind of miss his sarcasm in the quarterback room, for sure, which is always refreshing. We’ll have to see if he can come give us some material once in a while”.
Earlier in the week, he said of Roethlisberger, “I truly do learn something every week from him, whether that be communication-wise or just his creativity, the no-huddle. He’s a great player, and I’m going to continue to lean on him and try to meet with him as much as I can during the week, however available he is”.
That will have to be worked out as the season progresses, but his first priority is of course his own health. As of the time of this writing, it had not yet even been decided when he will have surgery on his injured elbow. And after he does, he will have to recuperate.
But he will still be there, around the facility, on the sideline. He’s a part of this team as much as anybody else on the Reserve/Injured or Physically Unable to Perform List is. He is capable of doing everything short of physical activity with the team. He hasn’t disintegrated into vapor. He’ll have Rudolph’s ear, no doubt.