Just six quarters into the 2019 season, second-year quarterback Mason Rudolph was shoved into the spotlight in Pittsburgh as he was forced into action after Ben Roethlisberger was lost for the season with torn tendons in his elbow against the Seattle Seahawks.
That season, Rudolph had an up and down year making his NFL debut and trying to replace a legend on a team with significant playoff aspirations. Though Rudolph handled himself well at times, he also had plenty of lows, including being knocked out of the game against the Baltimore Ravens while playing some of his best football by one Earl Thomas, later being benched on the road against the Cincinnati Bengals only to be pushed back into the lineup late in the season against the New York Jets, then only to be lost for the season in the same game with a significant shoulder injury.
Now, after a 2021 season in which he started just one game and tied the Detroit Lions, Rudolph finds himself in an envious situation once again: Competing for the starting quarterback job in Pittsburgh following the impending retirement of Roethlisberger.
On Wednesday, Rudolph met with the media and talked about the opportunity that sits in front of him, and addressed how difficult the 2019 season was for him, hardening him in the process and leaving him a better quarterback and person on the other side of that season.
“Yeah, I think Coach Tomlin talks about how the process of the NFL, how adversity hardens us and I know it’s cliche, but I think that’s probably the most adversity I’ve ever had in the season and in my life,” Rudolph said to reporters, according to video via Steelers.com. “And it happened within a span of 10 weeks, and I think I’m a better man for what happened to me that year. I think I’ve been hardened; my skin’s been thickened, and I’ve been been through a lot. I know that I’m out the other end, better prepared and ready for whatever football throws at me. And so, I’ve kind of got ‘screw it’ mentality. I finally got a chance to play the game I love and I went into the tank, you know, and I have no regrets.”
That season, Rudolph threw for 1,765 yards, 13 touchdowns, and nine interceptions, sporting an 82.0 QB Rating and a 36.2 QBR while helping the Steelers go 5-3 in his starts.
It certainly wasn’t all pretty, as he was eventually benched in Cincinnati for Duck Hodges, but there’s something to be said about what Rudolph went through that season, on and off the field. He certainly looked more comfortable and capable in his lone showing against the Lions this season, but there’s still work to be done.
What that “screw it” mentality looks like as a starting quarterback remains to be seen, but it’s very clear that the tough 2019 season helped Rudolph in more ways than one.