Mason Rudolph expected to hear his name called on Day 1 of the NFL Draft. Instead, he watched five other quarterbacks walk the stage or react with their families remotely on Thursday night. He had to wait well into Friday’s festivities to get the call that would change his life.
The hit to his pride (and pocketbook) notwithstanding, few could argue against the fact that Pittsburgh presents an ideal fit for any rookie quarterback. There’s a winning culture in place, a chance to learn under a future Hall of Famer — who may or may not be helpful — as well as the time needed to transition to the pro level and a new offense before being expected to contribute too early. And Mason Rudolph is already working to make the best of that time.
During last week’s OTAs, Rudolph reportedly stayed late to make up for the third-team reps (or lack thereof) he was relegated to (among the three QBs in attendance). He’s made an early impression with his work ethic.
“Whatever I feel like I need to get more reps at, I try to focus on that,” Rudolph told Steelers.com.
Rudolph, who really just started taking regular snaps from under center during the pre-draft process, took extra time after practice to work on that QB-to-center exchange as well as fine-tuning other things he’s unable to master as low man on the totem pole in terms of practice reps.
“I overthrew a flat (route) to (tight end) Xavier (Grimble), and then just lack of reps on a couple other routes I’m not getting because I’m running wth the No. 3s (the third-team offense),” Rudolph continued. “They were gracious enough to come catch with me afterwards.
“It’s good work.”
Last week, Steelers.com turned to a man who has plenty of experience watching Rudolph practice and improve over the last four years.
“I knew that he was a little bit concerned about moving under center but also excited about it,” said Mike Gundy. “He’ll be in the office all the time. He’ll study the game plan.
“I would be shocked if he doesn’t have a really good feel for their offense at this time with him being there for as long as he’s been, and he’ll work under center. He’s going to do whatever it takes to be successful.”
Learning a new offense and new targets (not named James Washington) comes with an adjustment period. That inevitably includes a hiccup here and there, like an ill-advised throw that results in an interception.
“I kind of flushed out to my left and tried to throw back across my body right,” Rudolph acknowledged. “Stupid mistake, I know not to do that. Once you get moved you have to know that it’s time to check the ball down to the (running) back, and not try to force it across your body.
“I’ll learn from it, won’t happen again.”
But Gundy is confident in his former franchise QB and his ability to adjust not only to the pro level but to a playing up on the line.
“Essentially, the style of play that we have at Oklahoma State — we have five-man, six-man, seven-man protections. We have turn protections. We run the football effectively here,” said Gundy.
“The difference is being under center, and he’ll work that out. He understands progressions. He understands coverages. He knows route-reading, so on and so forth. That won’t be an issue for him. Once he gets comfortable playing under the center he’ll be just fine.”
Rudolph may be the long-term plan at quarterback for Pittsburgh, but he’s got a way to go before he’s ready to be QB1 in Steel City. Luckily for him, he should be afforded every opportunity to grow into that tole. For now, Rudolph is just taking it one day at a time and trying to enjoy the process.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “It’s fun. It’s challenging. Right when you think you’ve figured it out, we install more.
“It’s just a daily install, just a process of learn and regurgitate and spitting it out in practice and then going back in the meeting room and fixing the mistakes.”