While the season appeared to be lost over a month ago, the Pittsburgh Steelers continue to punch their way back, now building off of a two-game winning streak with the opportunity to crawl back to a .500 record tomorrow with a win over the Indianapolis Colts.
And much of that is thanks to second-year quarterback Mason Rudolph, who is starting to come into his own five games into his playing career, while the offense begins to show signs of being competitive the way that they need to be.
The first of two third-round draft picks in 2018, Rudolph was a highly coveted prospect by the Steelers last year. In a move that I don’t believe they have ever taken with any other prospect after the first round, they were open in telling reporters that they had a first-round grade on him, and essentially said that, had their organizational circumstances been different—e.g. didn’t have a franchise quarterback—they would have drafted him in the first round.
Unfortunately, they saw their franchise quarterback go down just two games into the 2019 season, Ben Roethlisberger suffering an increasingly costly elbow injury that required surgery and landed him on the Reserve/Injured List after seeing action in just six quarters.
Rudolph has stepped in since then, barring the Los Angeles Chargers game, which he missed due to a concussion. He returned this past week and led Pittsburgh to a victory, but not without adversity. He played very poorly in the first quarter before starting to pick things up in the middle of the second, ultimately putting together a solid and encouraging, winning performance.
One of his closest friends on the team is third-year tackle Zach Banner, who happens to be becoming a fan favorite at the moment. Banner offered an interesting comment about Rudolph while speaking with Missi Matthews recently for a sit-down interview with the team’s website.
“He takes his job really, really serious”, Banner said. “For him, the type of player he is, we need to support him. Through ups and downs. Because he loves what he does, and he wants to be great. He’s a guy who needs family, and that’s okay, because in places like this, that’s what we are”.
While it’s interesting to hear from him, I actually don’t think it’s anything too surprising to anybody who has seen a couple of interviews with him. You can see the passion in his eyes and in the way that he talks about the game. You can hear in his tone his desire to be great.
So far, I think the organization is doing with Rudolph exactly what they need, and what he needs, surrounding him in an environment that will give him the opportunity to excel. As he begins to find his stride in the middle of his second season, I think we are seeing the results of that approach.