If Ben Roethlisberger’s Wednesday comments are any indication, he isn’t nearly the terrible teammate some in the national media is trying to make him out to be. Despite Mike Silver’s report that Mason Rudolph is on his own this week, Roethlisberger said his goal is to help Rudolph and Josh Dobbs in any way he can throughout the week.
“I’ll be here for Mason [Rudolph], for Josh [Dobbs], whoever it may be,” Roethlisberger told reporters via the team’s YouTube channel. “Kind of like last year, that’s the approach I’m going to take. I never want to step on toes, but I’ll be available for questions, to help my input with Coach Randy [Fichtner], Coach Canada, whoever it may be. I’ve already talked to Mason about that. That’s going to be my role this week to really try to and do everything I can to be there to answer questions or to be of help to them to get them prepared for this game.”
After season-ending elbow surgery last season, Roethlisberger was a regular on the Steelers’ sideline, providing input to Rudolph and Devlin Hodges as they attempted to shoulder the load.
It’s probably fair to say Roethlisberger and Rudolph aren’t BFFs but if you’ve been to a training camp practice or watched them interact during games, their relationship isn’t nearly as icy as the picture Silver’s report painted. And Roethlisberger said Rudolph has become a more vocal presence over the last two years, providing another set of sideline eyes when Roethlisberger is starting.
“A lot of times, obviously, during the TV timeouts or whenever I’m kind of in that little huddle on the sideline. That’s the time that input is coming from Coach Randy [Fichtner], from Coach Canada, from Josh Dobbs. It happened in the past with Bruce Gradkowski and Charlie [Batch] and Byron [Leftwich], and Mason has gotten to the point, especially in the last few weeks, where he is chiming in with thoughts and plays that, “Hey Ben, what about this, or what about this?” I think that shows growth and maturity of a guy that understands the offense and kind of what we are trying to do on a week-to-week basis. I think that’s been really, really good.”
Rudolph will make his first start of the season Sunday. With Roethlisberger healthy all year, Rudolph has reverted to his backup role. He’s thrown just four passes all season. His most extension action came in Week 9 against the Dallas Cowboys. Roethlisberger injured his knee late in the half and went to the locker room, putting Rudolph in the game to lead an abridged two-minute drive. Rudolph struggled, albeit in very limited action, going 2/3 for 3 yards and nearly having one pass intercepted. But Sunday provides a much cleaner slate for extensive action, plus the fact Rudolph knows he’s entering this game as a starter.
Week 17 could be the final game Rudolph ever starts for the Steelers. His rookie contract runs through next year and if Roethlisberger again stays healthy, Rudolph will be holding a clipboard for most of 2021. This could be his last significant appearance in Pittsburgh and perhaps the last chance to show he’s progressed from a difficult 2019 season.