In his first interview since surprisingly re-signing with the Pittsburgh Steelers, QB Mason Rudolph touched on a ton of topics on the Steel Here podcast, hosted by Kevin Adams and Jersey Jerry. While much of the conversation centered around the recent past, his decision to return to Pittsburgh, and the future of the Steelers, he was also asked about his history with Ben Roethlisberger. The relationship was perceived by many to be icy, and Rudolph explained his time together with Big Ben.
Rudolph began by noting the unique chance to watch a Hall of Fame quarterback work.
“I don’t take it for granted,” he told the show. “There’s not a lot of young players that can come in and get to be in the presence and learn from a Hall of Fame quarterback, right? He was a guy I watched, one of my favorites through high school, through college and so being at it for 18 years, he had a mode of operation. His preparation, he prepared sort of independently.”
When Rudolph was drafted in 2018, there was a belief he could be Roethlisberger’s eventual replacement. Not only did the Steelers trade up for him, moving up a handful of spots in the third round to jump the Cincinnati Bengals, but Kevin Colbert said after the pick that Pittsburgh had a first-round, “A” grade on Rudolph, which drew the attention of many. It was a different situation compared to the year prior when the Steelers took Tennessee’s Josh Dobbs in the fourth round, making it clear right after the selection that he was a backup, not a potential heir. Rudolph’s selection had a different feeling and perhaps that impacted the relationship out of the gate. Roethlisberger’s comments weeks later added fuel to that fire, expressing displeasure with the choice and remaining confident he wouldn’t need to be replaced for several more years.
Rudolph told Adams and Jerry what’s obvious to most: the two didn’t have a tight relationship.
“I wouldn’t say we were close but he did his job,” Rudolph said. “He had a job to do, he had a team to lead. And I get that. There were plenty of times where he would answer questions that I had.”
Though drafted as a potential heir, Rudolph never became that. He took over for Roethlisberger in 2019 following his season-ending elbow injury but took his lumps, figuratively and literally. Rudolph remained as the team’s backup the next several seasons, seeing occasional action, until 2022 when the additions of Mitch Trubisky and Kenny Pickett bumped him down to third on the depth chart.
Throughout the interview, Rudolph took the high road and said he understood Roethlisberger’s perspective of being the old veteran in an otherwise younger room and part of an offense that got younger and younger.
“There’s no bad blood,” he said. “We weren’t close, but would you expect a 37-, 38-year-old guy to be best friends with a 23-year-old?”
Roethlisberger is now retired and onto the next phase of his life, being around his family while starting a successful podcast. Rudolph, along with Trubisky, will be a mentor and set of eyes and ears to Pickett, who is entering a crucial sophomore season.
You can listen to the entire interview with Rudolph below.