Rudolph Named Steelers Starter Against Chiefs

Second-year QB thinks "better quality teammates" will elevate his game

Josh Rowntree
August 15, 2019 - 2:00 pm
Steelers QB Mason Rudolph at training camp 2019

Josh Rowntree - 93.7 The Fan

Staying with the theme of training camp, the next opportunity will go to Mason Rudolph.

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Rudolph, who is locked in a battle with Joshua Dobbs for the Steelers’ backup quarterback position, has been named the starter for Saturday’s game against Kansas City. 

“I’m going to start this game, just like I thought before the first game,” Rudolph said Thursday. “We’ll all start probably one game. Ben (Roethlisberger) will start one game. This week is my chance. It’s going to be fun. It’ll probably be similar to last week, just with a reversal of roles.”

Dobbs got the start in last Friday’s win over Tampa Bay, exiting in the second quarter to mixed reviews. He was 5-of-8 passing for 85 yards and rushed twice for 44 more yards, but did not lead any touchdown drives, was sacked twice and had an interception negated due to penalty. 

Rudolph, meanwhile, was the better of the two contenders, passing 5-of-8 for 91 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while primarily working with second and third string receivers. 

“There was some good and some bad, like there always is,” he said. “Looking back, I think there was a couple of plays where I tried to extend the play longer than I should have. Maybe I should have taken an option earlier in the progression or the play.”

Getting a shot to work with more first-team players could be naturally beneficial.

“A better quality of teammates around you helps elevate your game,” adding that he knows he may still not get to play with Pittsburgh’s best weapons much Saturday. “It’s a good group of guys. It’ll be fun. Those are valuable reps. It’s good to go with a different group whenever you get the chance and mesh with different guys.”

Pittsburgh will likely again rest some key offensive players, particularly along the offensive line. But Rudolph is ready to embrace the chance to lead the offense against a team that appeared in last year’s AFC Championship Game.

“I look at it as an opportunity to be out there in the stadium,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity to play and the enjoy moving the ball up and down the field with your teammates. Every opportunity is big. I’m trying to take advantage of every single one. 

“I’ve got high expectations for myself, I’m very hard on myself. I try to have a certain level of a standard I want to play up to each week.”

Rudolph and Dobbs have different games. Dobbs has speed and the ability to scramble, as was seen against Tampa. Rudolph is more pocket-based, with a strong arm that he likes to use to take shots down the field. 

“I think one of the things that really attracted us to him out of Stillwater was that level of aggression, the way that he attacked defenses vertically and threw the ball,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “I know that that’s his style, his demeanor, and it’s showing more and more consistently.”

His consistency has earned him an opportunity to, when Ben Roethlisberger rests, work more with the first team during training camp, evenly splitting those chances with Dobbs. Rudolph has found it to be massively beneficial.

But now the pressure is on. Drafted in the third round, Pittsburgh’s management had a first-round grade on the passer from Oklahoma State. And that same group will be keeping a close eye on how he handles a little more spotlight when the offense steps onto the Heinz Field turf for the first time Saturday night.

“Football is football,” Rudolph said. “Once you know the stuff, it becomes easier to understand and communicate. I don’t put pressure on myself. I just want to go score every time I’m on the field.”

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