Steelers’ Mason Rudolph Explains How His Time On The Sideline Allowed Him To Succeed When The Team Needed Him To

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph spent his entire rookie season on the bench behind Ben Roethlisberger. He was thrust into the starting role for eight games in 2019, but had seen the field sparingly since then until Head Coach Mike Tomlin named him the starter for an all-important game against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 16 with the 2023 season on the line. His insertion as the starting quarterback exhilarated the team, and they went on a somewhat unexpected run to the AFC Wild Card Round.

QB Mason Rudolph says Steelers want to re-sign him - Behind the Steel  Curtain

The prolific passer at Oklahoma State joined former teammate Ramon Foster on his podcast, The Ramon Foster Show, on Thursday afternoon to chat about the 2023 season and his future as a pending free agent. Rudolph said there was one big factor that helped him deliver in the biggest moments of the season for the team.

“I think experience,” he told Foster about what allowed him to have success in 2023. “It’s the best teacher, even when you’re not playing. You can either go crazy, or you can lock in and immerse yourself in the gameplan each week to try and help whoever is playing.”

Rudolph said multiple times during the interview how special it was for him to come to a place to learn behind a future Hall of Fame quarterback. Roethlisberger, on his podcast earlier this year, said he was open and willing to help him until he stopped wanting the help.

Steelers Mason Rudolph Ben Roethlisberger

Rudolph said that he’s learned from watching all the play-callers he’s been around on the sidelines. Even though he said it was frustrating at times to watch the organization pass him up, giving opportunities to Mitch Trubisky and Kenny Pickett, he tried his best to do what was beneficial to the team while biding his time for the next chance.

“Looking at it as a coach helped me to grow and helped me to mature from a football IQ standpoint,” Rudolph explained. “I tried to make suggestions to the play-caller because you’re in the room with you know what they like and there are plays they prefer.” 

Pickett said that he didn’t learn anything watching from the sideline this season while he dealt with injuries. It’s clear that it’s been a benefit to Rudolph to gain that perspective and it helped him when he was thrust back into action.

Steelers’ Rudolph “Felt Free” In 2023 Season

The last time Rudolph took the field as a starter was in the 2021 season when Roethlisberger was forced to miss a matchup with the Detroit Lions after ending up in COVID-19 protocol. He threw the ball 50 times as the Steelers tied the Lions 16-16. Rudolph had the team almost in scoring position with time winding down, but Pat Freiermuth had a costly fumble that returned the ball to the Lions and sealed the tie.

Steelers Mason Rudolph

Rudolph was almost able to eke out a win in a surprise start in 2021, but with his extra experience and maturity in 2023, he was able to be the quarterback Pittsburgh needed to get wins over the Bengals, Seattle Seahawks, and Baltimore Ravens down the stretch to make it to the postseason. Rudolph, who wasn’t even sure if he’d be playing football in 2023 when his phone was dead as a free agent, played some of the best games a quarterback played in Pittsburgh in 2023.

“I wasn’t watching myself on TV, but I felt free,” he told Foster. “I felt a sense of freedom and felt I had nothing to lose. It’s a fun place to be when you’re not playing with angst or anxiety. I just wanted to score points and win the games each week.”  

Until the Steelers met the Buffalo Bills and found themselves outmatched, that was all Rudolph did in 2023. The next question is whether he’ll be playing in Pittsburgh or elsewhere in 2024.

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