It’s no secret that former Pittsburgh Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and fifth-year signal caller Mason Rudolph didn’t have the best of relationships within the Steelers’ quarterback room.
It was a bit surprising to hear Rudolph take a bit of a veiled shot at Roethlisberger on Wednesday during a media session with reporters following the Steelers’ OTA session at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. Despite being the third horse in the three-man race for the starting quarterback job in Pittsburgh behind Mitch Trubisky and rookie Kenny Pickett, Rudolph stated to reporters that he’s willing to help any of the new guys get up to speed and comfortable in the system, rather than “being like someone else.”
Of course, Rudolph was once the hotshot rookie coming into the franchise with a decent future outlook, one that many within the organization believed could entail being the next franchise quarterback. Rudolph’s selection at No. 76 overall in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft was questioned by man though, including the man he was brought in to learn under and potentially succeed in Roethlisberger.
“I was surprised when they took a quarterback because I thought that maybe in the third round, you know you can get some really good football players that can help this team now. Nothing against Mason; I think he’s a great football player. I don’t know him personally, but I’m sure he’s a great kid,” Roethlisberger said on a 93.7 The Fan appearance in 2018 following the draft. “I just don’t know how backing up or being a third [string]—well, who knows where he’s going to fall on the depth chart—helps us win now. “But, you know, that’s not my decision to make. That’s on the coaches and the GM and the owner and those kind of things. If they think he can help our team, so be it, but I was a little surprised.”
Roethlisberger had every right to be a bit surprised, especially after the Steelers were still very clearly in win-now mode and could have used the 76th pick on a piece to help them win then, rather than a player for the future at his own position .
However, it was very clear then and very clear now that Roethlisberger handled it incorrectly in the public eye. That tended to be a problem with him on his radio show as he’d get a bit too loose lipped, forgetting a ton of people were listening. That happens with comfort, but it created much more drama than needed.
Even after his first answer about being surprised, Roethlisberger doubled down on the pick, stating he’d just point to the playbook if Rudolph needed help. Of course, that was said more tongue in cheek than anything, but the damage was done.
“Well, I don’t think I’ll need to now that he’s said that he doesn’t need me. So if he ask me a question, I might have to just point to the playbook, you know,” Roethlisberger joked in 2018.
Rudolph, to his credit, knew what to say then, stating to reporters that it was up to him to learn the playbook and nobody else.
“It’s not Ben [Roethlisberger’s] job to teach me anything. It’s my job to learn and that is the way I am going to look at it,” Rudolph said then. “Obviously, you’re sitting behind an unbelievable player and a good dude, so we’ll just kind of take it day by day and try to learn what I can each and every day.”
Years later, that initial welcoming to the Steelers, or whatever it was from Roethlisberger to Rudolph, still bothers the young quarterback, who stated to reporters he’d do anything he could to help Trubisky and Pickett.
Speaking with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Brian Batko Wednesday, Rudolph said just that, while taking a veiled shot at Roethlisberger in the process.
Rudolph was asked by Batko if he felt like he needed to take on the responsibility of helping first-round pick Kenny Pickett. Before Batko could finish the question with as opposed to, Rudolph chimed in with, “being like someone else?”
“We’ve probably all been in situations, whether it’s high school, college or pro, where we’re the incumbent starter, and there’s a new freshman, there’s a new rookie, there’s a highly recruited guy,” Rudolph said Wednesday after practice to Batko. “I’ve always believed in, the starter shouldn’t have to go out of his way, because he’s got a lot of things to deal with. But definitely be open to questions and help the growth and development of a younger quarterback, yeah.”
Rudolph, to his credit, has seen what does and does not work with the dynamic within the Steelers’ quarterback room. He’s aiming to provide a welcoming, helpful environment within the quarterbacks room, which will only benefit the Steelers moving forward, long after Rudolph isn’t wearing the black and gold.