The National Football League is a neverending carousel of successes and failures. Every victory on one side is a defeat on another. Every job won is, elsewhere, a job lost. The cycle goes on and on, nonstop. It’s the inherent nature of competitive sports, and part of its beauty and charm.
It’s also part of the ugliness, the harsh reality at times. But the good thing is that, when it happens to you, there is always somebody to commiserate with. It’s rare to find a player who hasn’t experienced personal failure. Perhaps not simply rare, actually, but rather impossible. No matter at what level, anybody can relate to your struggles.
That is what Mason Rudolph needs right now as he regathers himself after a benching, following a six-quarter stretch in which he threw five interceptions and marshalled his offense to a whopping 10 points, with no signs of improvement.
Since taking over for an injured Ben Roethlisberger halfway through the second game of the season, Rudolph had been the guy whenever he’s been healthy enough to suit up until he was yanked one drive into the second half on Sunday. Now he’ll be Devlin Hodges’ backup this weekend. He’s tried to take it in stride, but he’s also leaned on his teammates during this time.
“A lot of guys who have been through adversity in their own right and their own situations and they know what that’s like, and they really rallied around me”, Rudolph told reporters yesterday while speaking to the media, via Will Graves of the Associated Press. “And I think that speaks to the coaches, too”.
There are plenty of players on the roster who have gone through their ups and downs in this league. He needs only look at the men in front of him. Of the starting five offensive linemen for Sunday’s game, four of them will be undrafted free agents, three of whom took at least a year, if not multiple tours in the armed forces, before finally making a 53-man roster.
Rudolph told reporters that he feels “blessed to have a great brotherhood here, a great team” in the Steelers’ locker room, which has been supportive of him through his trials. They know that this is just a bump in the road for him, but they are also supporting Hodges at the same time, of course, and sharing in his opportunity presented to him.
Frankly, it’s hard to know how easily that might have been said in years past, given some of the toxic locker room dynamics that had developed. It seems at least as though most, if not all, of those negative elements have been removed, and it’s fostered a healthier culture within the group, which I think it’s not too much to say has been a part of their resilience through this trying campaign.