At some point in the foreseeable future, perhaps people will finally accept the fact that the Pittsburgh Steelers are very comfortable with the quarterbacks they have under contract for the 2020 season. Additionally, perhaps people will soon accept the fact that the Steelers are comfortable with Mason Rudolph being the team’s backup behind starter Ben Roethlisberger after general manager Kevin Colbert once again reiterated that’s the case during a Tuesday interview on Steelers Nation Radio.
“Mason, as a second-year player, first year starter, he was 5-3 [last season] and that was a winning percentage,” Colbert said of Rudolph on Tuesday. “So, most backups in this league, if you can get a winning percentage out of them, great. And who’s to say if that would have continued over another eight games? We don’t know. What we were most encouraged about Mason, you know he started off okay, he had that little rough stretch, he got benched. He stayed a professional during that benching and he worked, and he pushed. And when he got called on in the Jet game, it was his best football by far and unfortunately he got hurt.”
In case anyone forgot, Rudolph took over for a struggling Devlin Hodges early in the second quarter of the Steelers Week 16 game against the New York Jets and completed 14 of his 20 total pass attempts for 129 yards and a touchdown before ultimately being knocked out of the contest late in the third quarter with a shoulder injury, which ended his season.
“So, that was really encouraging,” Colbert said of Rudolph’s play against the Jets. “That reinforces our belief that, look, we think Mason is at least an NFL backup. Where he can go, who knows? But the signs are encouraging and what he did in that time period early was encouraging, but how he finished in that Jet game, it was encouraging. Disappointing for him and us that he didn’t get to finish it, because that was his best game, albeit a short one.”
Rudolph’s 2019 season was one that included so many twists and turns and challenges to overcome. He was knocked out cold in the Week 5 game against the Baltimore Ravens and forced to miss the next game with a concussion. He then had to overcome a very poor start and boos from a home crowd against the Miami Dolphins a few weeks later on a Monday night. A few games later he was hit over the head with his own helmet by Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett late in a Thursday night loss and soon-after that contest was accused of using a racial slur that instigated such an action. A benching the following week against the Cincinnati Bengals for continued poor play quickly turned into him being the backup behind Hodges for the next three and a half games. After finally getting back on the field again in Week 16, Rudolph’s strong rebound ended quickly because of a shoulder injury.
While it’s certainly not the way the way Colbert envisioned Rudolph’s 2019 season going after he took over for an injured Roethlisberger in Week 2, he made it clear on Tuesday that he was very encouraged by how the former third-round draft pick out of Oklahoma State handled all of the adversity he faced last season.
“Anytime a player’s presented with a physical challenge, a mental challenge, whatever type of challenge, it either makes him or breaks him and that young man stood up and faced the issues,” Colbert said of Rudolph. “He knew that he failed in the Cincinnati game. And he wasn’t happy about being benched, but he took that benching and made himself work to continue to be better. And again, I think the result was there. Would he had finished the Jet game the way he came in? Who knows, but it was encouraging to see him, and it just reiterated the belief that this young man has a lot to him.”
Colbert’s detailed Tuesday explanation of why he believes Rudolph is the Steelers right backup to Roethlisberger will hopefully put an end to suggestions to the contrary. Like it or not, Rudolph, as we’ve been told several times already this offseason by the Steelers front office, will be the Steelers backup quarterback when training camp gets underway later this summer and more than likely once the regular season gets underway in September as well.