QB Mason Rudolph reflects what he learned from rookie season on Steelers’ bench
It wasn’t easy, Mason Rudolph readily acknowledges, serving as a No. 3 quarterback and not playing in meaningful football games for the first autumn of his competitive life. But as his rookie season with the Pittsburgh Steelers was ending, Rudolph was able to reflect on how far he came in 2018.
“I was telling my college coach that I talk to a lot, beginning of the season I was like, ‘Wow, NFL football, it’s crazy,’” Rudolph said. “And then the middle of the season, I was like, ‘I’m really starting to understand this, just the way the week flows, to game day.’
“And then the last couple weeks (of the season), it was, ‘I can play now if I had to.’”
A star at Oklahoma State who played all four of his seasons during college, Rudolph kept positive and embraced whatever role he could for the Steelers in his first NFL season. But of not playing (outside of the preseason), Rudolph described it as, “ No doubt, it’s tough .”
“It’s weird, it’s different,” he said after attempting 915 passes in 42 college games since late 2014. “But I’m making the best of it. I’ve tried to get that competitive adrenaline rush in practice as much as I can.”
Easier said than done in the modern NFL with practice time so limited and an urgent need for teams to get their first-teamers up to speed on a weekly gameplan. A No. 3 quarterback in the pros just doesn’t get the reps that, for example, Rudolph had grown accustomed to in college.
But what Rudolph missed in physical development over the course of the regular season he more than made up for, he says, in the mental aspect of the game.
“Just a general understanding of the offense has improved so much,” Rudolph said, “learning (for example) what we call or run in OTAs and what we actually run when it gets nut-cutting time. What are Ben’s favorite calls? What are our base concepts that we’re going to use every week? What’s most efficient for us? So that’s cool to see how the gameplan gets cut down through the week as it gets later in the week.
“Obviously, physically I have been staying in shape, doing whatever I can do to maximize my reps. But mentally there’s a lot to allow for to stay sharp.”
Last year at this time during the run-up to the NFL draft, Rudolph was a peer of the likes of Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen and Lamar Jackson. Each of those five was a first-round pick who was his team’s starter by the end of the season.
“But I think I have stayed motivated to help this team in whatever way I can, whether it’s (offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner), Ben, our receivers, whoever, just with gameplanning and adding a nugget or two of tendency here or there to Ben or Randy every once in a while whenever they do need it,” Rudolph said.
“I am definitely chomping at the bit, but you’ve just got to stay patient. And I know that God has got a plan.”
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris at [email protected] or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.