Rudolph Not Lacking Confidence Following Turbulent Roller-Coaster Second Season

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2019 season included quarterback Mason Rudolph playing extensively as the team’s former third-round draft pick out of Oklahoma State started eight games after veteran starter Ben Roethlisberger was lost for the year in Week 2. Rudolph’s extensive play in 2019, however, was a roller coaster ride of sorts with more low points than high points. On Saturday, Rudolph met the media via a Zoom session and talked some about his 2019 play in addition to his outlook moving forward.

“When I looked back at last year, I didn’t run our offense at the level to meet the Pittsburgh Steelers standard,” said Rudolph. “You look at the film, ways to improve, and there is a lot of meat on the bone there where I get excited because you have been through a lot of game experience and reps and I felt what it’s like to prepare each week in a cyclical manner of a season.”

In total, Rudolph completed 176 of his 283 total pass attempts for 1,765 yards and 13 touchdowns. He did, however, also throw 9 interceptions with four of them coming in the team’s brutal Week 11 road loss to the Cleveland Browns. Rudolph was unable to bounce back from that Week 11 poor showing the next week against the Cincinnati Bengals and it resulted in him being benched in favor of rookie undrafted quarterback Devlin Hodges early in the third quarter of that contest. Rudolph said on Saturday that he made sure this offseason to do a lot of self-evaluation

“Well, I think, obviously, aside from in-week during the season when you are evaluating the tape with a coach and you’re making corrections, I went back and watched all of every single rep a couple of times in the offseason,” Rudolph said. “I made notes and reached out to people and asked for their opinions, whether that was people on our staff or people outside of our direct building. I kind of had a feeling of what I need to work on, but it’s always great to have another set of eyes and someone else bringing something to your attention.

“So, I think it was a lot early in the offseason, January, February, into the early part of March, there’s a lot of all mental trying to rehab. And then, like I said, take the steps forward and focusing on what I do need to improve on and then once we got on the field, I think each year you figure it out. It’s not you’re checking a box to go out and throw and lift weights, you want to hone in on the nuance of what you need to improve on to get better and then make a stride going into year three. So, that’s all I’m trying to do.”

The Steelers brought in a new quarterbacks coach this offseason in the form of Matt Canada and he’ll now oversee attempting to get Rudolph to make a nice stride in his third season. Rudolph sounded on Saturday that he welcomed the addition of Canada.

“It’s been great to have a quarterbacks coach now part of our organization to help myself as well as the other guys in the room, Rudolph said on Saturday. “It’s been great.”

While Rudolph was benched in Week 12, he eventually found himself back on the field in Week 16 against the New York Jets after replacing a struggling Hodges in the second half. While Rudolph couldn’t finish that relief appearance due to him suffering a collarbone injury, he had a nice bounce back showing in that contest as he completed 14 of his 20 total pass attempts for 129 yards and a touchdown. On Saturday, he was asked if having that nice showing against the Jets helped restore his confidence.

“Yeah, I think that’s something you can build on going into this year,” Rudolph said. “And I thought there were things there that you could build a foundation upon and just good to get back in the action. And it felt good to get back to playing football and scoring points. And obviously it’s unfortunate the way with the injury there and kind of being removed when you felt like we were heading in the right direction and with the chance to make the playoffs there it was hard, but that’s football and there’s injuries.

“But, yeah, I think every game you could pull something from it. I think, yeah, I am very confident right now going into this year. I think putting a finishing touch, even though obviously the injury and losing the game eventually, but I think there were some things to build on.”

While Rudolph will likely open the 2020 season as the Steelers backup quarterback behind Roethlisberger and thus not likely play unless another injury occurs or he’s asked to mop up a game, he’s still very confident in his abilities moving forward and firmly believes he will eventually be a starter either in Pittsburgh or somewhere else.

“I am confident that I will be a starting quarterback in the NFL,” Rudolph said on Saturday. “And right now, my job is to prepare and push Ben and help our guys any way I can and obviously in training camp, improve and take advantage of these reps every single day. It’s exciting. It’s a fun time of the year.”

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