There always has to be a starting point for any quarterback. They will always begin their career as an inexperienced player, because there’s simply no other way to do it. You have to play to get experience. Yet your lack of experience also makes it harder for you to get experience.
The discussion recalls the rookie season of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who was supposed to begin his career as the number three quarterback, yet by the third game of his rookie season, he moved into the starting lineup and never left.
It’s 16 years on now, so it’s been a very long time since the Steelers have ever been seriously in the ‘new quarterback’ conversation, but they have been thrust into the mix with Mason Rudolph for, presumably, 13 games, given that Roethlisberger is lost for the year.
Bill Cowher was the Steelers’ head coach when Roethlisberger was drafted, so when he appeared on Ian Rapoport’s podcast this past week, the NFL Network reporter asked him to compare what the team is currently going through with Rudolph to his experience with Roethlisberger.
“It’s a completely different scenario than when Ben took over because Ben was a guy who was just learning the system”, Cowher said. “He was in there as a third-string quarterback and due to injuries was pushed up to number two, but really not ready to be the number two just because of a lack of experience.
“He was really kind of thrust into that position”, he added. “We got more comfortable as he got more comfortable, and we added more as he was able to feel okay adding more. So I think it’s a completely different scenario when you look at Mason”.
There is a substantial difference, now just because this is happening so many years later with the way the game has evolved since then, but also because Rudolph has been here. “You have a full year into the system”, Cowher pointed out. “You have a full offseason into the system, and you come into the season as the backup quarterback, and all of a sudden there’s another level of confidence that you have because now you’ve been elevated to the next level and you’re one play away from going in there”.
The former head coach said that he believes for Rudolph, it just comes down to experience and playing time. “You can’t simulate game experiences and game speed and decision-making, processing information, that’s very hard to simulate in practice”, he said, adding, “it’s just going to be a comfort level as he gets out there on a weekly basis”.
One thing that he really focused on is the importance of developing connections with his teammates on the field, and for everybody to learn his tendencies and preferences as he learns theirs. As these on-field relationships build from week to week, he expects the offense to play better, and to expand their repertoire as well.