For the first four years of Mason Rudolph’s career, he served in Ben Roethlisberger’s shadow. In 2022, he’s stepping out of it. Rudolph is now the veteran of the Steelers’ quarterback room. A far-different looking room, one with more competition and potentially, less ego. As diplomatic as one can be, Rudolph explained how the locker room has changed now. He spoke to 93.7 The Fan’s Jim Colony about it Friday.
“It’s a little different,” he said when asked about the new feel of the Steelers’ locker room.
Specifically, it’s a different relationship between Rudolph and the other quarterbacks in the room. The tension and uneasy relationship between Ben Roethlisberger and Rudolph was well-documented. Rudolph was drafted as the team’s first potential heir apparent, someone that Roethlisberger viewed as a threat to his job. Things got off on an icy foot with Roethlisberger saying he would point to the playbook if Rudolph had a question about the Steelers’ offense. At the time, Roethlisberger also expressed surprise about Rudolph’s selection. Here’s what he said via Bleacher Report.
“I was surprised they took a QB because I thought maybe in the 3rd round you can get some really good players that can help this team win now. Nothing against Mason I think he is a great player. I don’t know him personally but I’m sure he is a great kid. I just don’t know how backing up or being the third, who knows where he’s going to fall in the depth chart but helps us win now…if they feel like he can help our team, so be it but I was a little surprised.”
Rudolph never emerged as the team’s next franchise quarterback, in part due to him backing up Roethlisberger and in part due to his own struggles when given the opportunity to play. Pittsburgh’s first-round grade on Rudolph proved to be a misevaluation.
While specifics about their relationship as teammates are generally unknown, it’s fair to say Roethlisberger and Rudolph weren’t close. Instead, Rudolph learned from Roethlisberger by studying from afar.
“I was able to watch Ben Roethlisberger practice for four years and watch him work the two minute drill, in the red zone and the throws he made in his ball placement. And I think that’s invaluable for a young quarterback to come into the league and regardless of the friendship or relationship, I got to watch him go to work and that’s invaluable.”
An answer that’d buy you a seat in Congress. Reading between the lines, Rudolph is admitting the two didn’t have a friendship and that he observed how Roethlisberger practiced and played. Now, he’s fighting to take over Roethlisberger’s starting job. But based on how the battle is going, Rudolph is likely to enter another season as the team’s backup quarterback. Mitch Trubisky is a heavy favorite to be the team’s Week One starter though poor play could open the door back open for Rudolph.
To the broader point, this year’s quarterback room seems closer than others. In part due to it being a younger and newer group. Trubisky has had a different approach than Roethlisberger, more open and willing to take younger players under his wing despite a guy like Pickett battling, and eventually likely taking, Trubisky’s job. Ultimately, the only thing that matters for a starting quarterback is that they play well and win games. Helping younger quarterbacks in the process is just a bonus. Few quarterbacks in his era played as well or won as often as Roethlisberger so all can be forgiven. And publicly, Rudolph isn’t holding a grudge.