Pretty much any occupation that exposes your work to the public requires you to have some level of thick skin. Even this job certainly requires it at times. But it’s hard to imagine the level of bile that something like Mason Rudolph must deal with. Managing the ridicule becomes an intrinsic part of the job.
The Pittsburgh Steelers’ fifth-year quarterback is working to become the team’s starter this offseason, and that has only put the spotlight on him more than ever in the aftermath of Ben Roethlisberger’s retirement. It seems like a daily media event that someone tries to take him down—including former Steelers. But he gets it, as he told Jim Rome yesterday.
“Shoot, I totally understand the barbershop talk”, he said. “You’re playing one of the most highly-scrutinized positions in all of sports, and it comes with the dinner. I get that. I never understand the guys that invite it and then cry wolf at the end”.
“I totally understand it. I enjoy it”, he added. “I think I’ve got a lot to prove, and I think that motivates me. But, yeah, of course, there are people out there that—I think there’s probably 31 teams that aren’t happy with some part of their team, because only one can win it all”.
A third-round pick out of Oklahoma State in 2018, Rudolph has played in 17 games in his four-year career, including 10 starts, in which he holds a 5-4-1 record. Eight starts came in 2019 after Roethlisberger was injured, going 5-3 in those games.
He has completed 236 of 384 pass attempts for his career for 2,366 yards, with 16 touchdowns to 11 interceptions. Last season, in a last-minute starting opportunity against the Detroit Lions, he completed 30 of 50 attempts for 242 yards with one touchdown and one interception, ultimately playing to a tie.
Of course, tying a then-winless Lions team didn’t do him any favors in terms of the abuse that he received, and he even acknowledged that it’s pretty much impossible to avoid the talk entirely. After all, your own friends and family are likely to point things out.
“You try to shut it out. I think anyone that says they can shut it out completely is probably telling a bit of a lie”, he admitted. “Social media, and you can walk by a restaurant and see something on a TV—it’s gonna be put in your face eventually. How do you handle it? I think I do let it motivate me a bit, but you also can’t dwell on it, and you’ve got to control what you can control”.
One thing Rudolph cannot control over the course of the next few months is how the front office addresses the quarterback position. They have already been very clear in their intentions to bring in more talent. Late-night reports even suggested that the Steelers are pursuing Aaron Rodgers. I have a feeling Rudolph won’t beat him out.