It is equal parts funny and frustrating in hindsight to recall that the Pittsburgh Steelers, in the same offseason, drafted a quarterback whom they believed to be their future starter, and also basically hamstrung the quarterbacks coach position by hiring the man in that post to also handle the offensive coordinator duties.
That’s not to say that others in the league in the past haven’t been able to successfully serve as both offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. But when you’re new to one of those roles, it makes it a lot harder, and it’s really never preferred when you have young quarterbacks in the room.
The Steelers let that slide for two years before hiring Matt Canada to be the quarterbacks coach last year, whom fourth-year quarterback Mason Rudolph—the man in question—recently credited for helping him advance his game significantly over the past 15 or so months.
“Speaking of last year, I think having Matt Canada, having a quarterback coach, really helped me take some steps forward, and to develop and to have that confidant week to week that I could go to and ask questions”, he told reporters last week during OTAs.
One thing that he particularly highlighted was the fact that Canada always treated him as though he would be starting. He put together a plan for Rudolph every week, seeking the quarterback’s input, which really helped him stay engaged.
“He did a great job of having…a plan for me”, he said. “‘Hey, what are your favorites? What’s your top 10 drop-back concepts, RPOs, play action?’ Just going through the mental gymnastics of preparing yourself and knowing, if I have to play, we’ve got a plan in place for it to be a smooth transition”.
Rudolph started eight games during the 2019 season, and left a lot to be desired, before he was ready for that kind of playing time. He only got the chance to start the season finale a year ago, but he feels that showed a difference.
“Obviously, it was a small sample size, one game, but I think we should’ve won it”, he said of that Week 17 game against the Cleveland Browns, in which the Steelers were resting starters and Cleveland was playing to make the playoffs for the first time since 2002. “Obviously, you want to win every game that you can, but there was a lot of positives to move forward from”.
Now he has Canada as his offensive coordinator and Mike Sullivan as his quarterbacks coach. Sullivan is a veteran, experienced position coach in the league. Having both of those men in Rudolph’s ear is something he sees as a big asset. He previously mentioned that Sullivan has been focusing on his footwork, which is one of his weakest areas. If Rudolph really is going to be the team’s next starter, then they may finally have the right setup around him to give him the best chance of succeeding.