Being a backup quarterback requires a certain level of selflessness. In order to do your job at the highest level, you have to put in virtually the same amount of work as the starter—if not more—only to sit on the bench during the games without the opportunity to contribute, unless something goes wrong.
That something did go wrong this past weekend when Pittsburgh Steelers starter Ben Roethlisberger tested positive for COVID-19. Backup Mason Rudolph learned on Saturday night that the would be starting the next afternoon. But in spite of the abbreviated timeline, it was a chance that he embraced for himself.
“I was happy to have the opportunity to play and to get out there and to make mistakes and improve and do some good things as well”, he told reporters earlier today, also speaking to his preparations to start this week, even though Roethlisberger could be back any day. “That’s all I can do, is try to prove myself again this week. I hope I get the opportunity. If not, I’ll support the crap out of Ben and our team”.
The Steelers went 5-3 with Roethlisberger under center through the first eight games of the season, and were on a four-game winning streak heading into this past weekend’s game against the winless Lions. Many were anticipating an easy layup that would have put them in first place in the AFC North, but it ended up being anything but that, and this week’s game certainly won’t be any easier, regardless of who is under center—even if Rudolph hopes it will be him, while recognizing the larger picture.
“Any week that I don’t play I feel a little disappointment. That’s the battle between self and team”, he assessed. “We’re all gonna feel that way inside, but at the end of the freakin’ day, what matters is the team and going out and winning the game, so regardless of who’s playing the quarterback position, the Steelers, we want to win and we want to continue to stack wins in our column and set ourselves up for the postseason. So that’s our mindset”.
The Steelers are still in relatively good position, provided that they can take care of their own business. They are still in a playoff seed right now, and are half a game behind the Baltimore Ravens for first place in the division.
But with one of the hardest remaining schedules in the league, it will take an all-hands-on-deck attitude from Pittsburgh in order to get the job done, and that includes a ‘next man up’ mentality, not just at the quarterback position, but on every spot on the roster, and even within the coaching staff.