The life of a starting NFL quarterback can be far from glamorous at times. Sometimes, it can be downright absurd. Take the life of Mason Rudolph right now, who may well no longer be the starter for the Pittsburgh Steelers after he was pulled from today’s game, watching Devlin Hodges lead the comeback instead with 13 unanswered pointed.
Rudolph was coming off by far the worst performance of his career a week and a half prior, during which he threw four interceptions against the Cleveland Browns in a seven-point offensive effort, leading the Steelers to their first loss in five weeks.
And that was all before he had a major altercation with Myles Garrett, which culminated in the defender striking him over the head with his own helmet. In between Garrett tackling him and then assaulting him, he claimed during his suspension appeal hearing that Rudolph had used a racial slur.
Cameron Heyward told reporters during the week after that was leaked that it hit Rudolph hard. The team canceled a scheduled media availability session for the young quarterback that day. He was insulted, yet felt the claim would follow him the rest of his life.
And so today, as he’s dealing with not just another bad game, but on top of that having been benched and watching his backup outperform him, he was tasked with fielding questions about the racial epithet allegation this evening.
“It’s totally untrue”, he told reporters of the claim just a short while ago. “I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe he would go that route after the fact”. There had been no public report that Garrett claimed Rudolph used a racial epithet until a week later when it was leaked from his suspension appeal hearing; however, Jay Glazer reported that he had, in fact, told teammates about it, and that he would have talked about it during an interview last Sunday that the team forced him to scrub.
Garrett was asked after the game last Thursday if there was anything Rudolph said that set him off. He never said that there was or was not, instead directing reporters to watch the tape. The quarterback himself denied having said anything, and did so again today. “Absolutely not”, he said. “There was nothing. Not even close”.
After the report was leaked, Garrett issued a statement in which he said, “I know what I heard”, confirming that he was claiming Rudolph used a racial epithet during the course of their altercation. The former is, of course, serving an indefinite suspension. Rudolph was fined $50,000.
It’s possible, though, that neither of them play another snap this season after Rudolph was benched today. How much of his rough performance can be attributed to what he is going through, both on and off the field? I’m not sure even he can answer that.