Mason Rudolph has a great chance of not being hit in the head by a helmet swung by an opponent this week, now that he has been benched in favor of Devlin Hodges for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ rematch on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns. He probably feels like he’s been hit over the head, though.
This is the first time in his life that he’s been benched. Typically, it’s been the other way around. He wouldn’t come in immediately as the starter, but he would earn that job through his work and his performance, and he would show that he was the answer. So far through his first season playing as a professional, he hasn’t had a lot of answers. It’s been frustrating, and now he’s been sat down on top of it.
Offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner was part of the conversation in making the decision to go with Hodges this week. The Steelers pulled Rudolph one drive into the second half during Sunday’s win over the Cincinnati Bengals, at which time they were trailing 7-3. The game ended 16-10.
Fichtner was asked by reporters yesterday what it takes to keep Rudolph engaged and confident in his abilities. “I don’t know if there is a correct answer for that”, he said honestly, via transcript, and I think that’s really the only answer.
“We had a nice conversation yesterday. We will have continued conversations throughout this process. Everything that we do in football, as in life, we can learn from”, Fichtner said. “If we choose to make it a positive, we will. If we choose to make it a negative, then I don’t know that anyone is going to grow”.
Between him and Mike Tomlin, we’ve heard from both in their public remarks, and how their words have seemingly been chosen to do their best to keep Rudolph engaged; for their part, they’ve also said that he’s been just that. He was the first in the meeting room the day he was informed he wouldn’t play, and was ready to help out Hodges.
“I know he is going to choose it to be a positive in some way”, Fichtner said of Rudolph in how he will respond to the benching and what he will do with that moving forward. “He showed great work today. He was just like he always is, the first in the meeting and again, he will be the last to leave tonight”.
A third-round pick in 2018, Rudolph actually spent his first season in the NFL as a third-string quarterback, and never even dressed for a game, which was a new experience for him. He earned the backup job this year, and was thrust into playing time very early, with Ben Roethlisberger, checking out for the second by the end of the first half of the second game.