Roethlisberger texts rookie QB Rudolph, wishes him ‘good luck’
Video of Mason Rudolph's talking about Ben Roethlisberger texting him on eve of rookie minicamp pic.twitter.com/9WZQVq0yMA— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) May 11, 2018
The first time he lined up under center Friday morning, for his first snap as a professional quarterback, Mason Rudolph had the ball slip through his grasp and fall to the ground.
The fumble wasn’t as much of a welcome-to-the-NFL moment or a case of nerves as it was an unfamiliar center snapping the ball to a quarterback who spent most of his college career lining up in the shotgun.
“We’ll work through that and get better,” Rudolph said.
The same could be said of his relationship with Ben Roethlisberger, who stirred controversy when he questioned why the Steelers would use a third-round draft pick to take Rudolph when so much immediate defensive help was available.
The Roethlisberger-Rudolph narrative played out on talk shows and social media for a week with questions percolating about whether the franchise quarterback would snub the highly touted rookie once offseason practices commenced.
Rudolph put an end to the speculation Friday on the first day of rookie minicamp. He revealed Roethlisberger sent him a text message Thursday night.
“He just reached out and said good luck in rookie minicamp,” Rudolph said. “I was really appreciative of that. I haven’t met him yet, but I’m looking forward to it.”
The two will get a chance to get acquainted May 22 when organized team activities (OTAs) are held over a three-week period. Rudolph seems to know his role in the pecking order, which is behind Roethlisberger and, for now, veteran Landry Jones and second-year player Josh Dobbs.
Being second string is foreign to Rudolph, yet he gladly will sport uniform No. 2 — the same digit he wore in high school and college. Aside from his freshman year at Oklahoma State, Rudolph has opened every season as a starter since ninth grade when he was a wide receiver at Northwestern High School in Rock Hill, S.C.
“My role is day by day,” Rudolph said. “Obviously, I’m not starting. I’m looking forward to working with Josh and Landry and Ben and maximizing each rep with these guys, with all these rookies, bonding and getting our chemistry right.”
Chemistry became a talking point when Roethlisberger told 93.7 FM it wasn’t his job to mentor Rudolph, who was the sixth quarterback taken in the draft, with the other five going in the first round.
“I don’t think I’ll need to, now that he said he doesn’t need me,” Roethlisberger said. “If he asks me a question, I might have to point to the playbook.”
Roethlisberger laughed when he made the remark, but it appeared he took exception to Rudolph saying it was not the 14-year veteran’s job “to teach me anything,” although Rudolph was being deferential to Roethlisberger and added it was the rookie’s job to learn from the veteran.
“I think the media twisted it around a little bit,” Rudolph said. “He’s a competitor, he’s a Hall of Fame quarterback and he’s a competitive guy, and that’s what I would expect. He’s a long-time starter. I’m sure when we get in this building and in this room, it’s going to be all … we’re going to be friends.
“I’m going to let him do his thing and try to pick up what I can from him and not bother him.”
Second-round draft pick James Washington, who was Rudolph’s favorite wide receiver at Oklahoma State, isn’t surprised by the diplomatic stance Rudolph has taken toward Roethlisberger’s comments.
“He’s handled it like Mason would,” Washington said. “He’s a strong-minded guy. He doesn’t care about the hype. He’s just another guy looking for a job, that’s all.”
Rudolph was asked whether Roethlisberger’s comments put any pressure on him to feel like he needs to justify being the No. 76 overall selection in the draft.
“I don’t have to justify anything,” he said. “I have to come out here and soak up all the reps I can get, keep working with (offensive coordinator Randy) Fichtner. I’m here to prove myself. That’s the way I approach every facet of my life. I don’t feel like I have to prove to anyone anything other than these coaches and my teammates.”
Aside from a few mistimed quarterback-center exchanges, Rudolph was content with how his first day of practice as an NFL player unfolded.
“It was great. It was fun,” he said. “My head was spinning a little bit like I thought it would be, but it has been great working with Coach Fichtner and the whole offensive staff and working out the kinks.”
Rudolph’s ability to minimize his mistakes is what made him such a highly touted draft pick, Washington said.
“He’s a perfectionist,” Washington said. “He doesn’t like things sloppy. If it’s sloppy, he’s going to redo it no matter what. That’s something that will help him at this next level.”