Rudolph is 'someone we all trust'

Confidence.

It’s something you must have in your quarterback and for years the Steelers have had that in Ben Roethlisberger.

But the team will be without Roethlisberger for the rest of the season after he was placed on the reserve/injured list with an elbow injury that will require surgery.

The starting job is now in the hands of Mason Rudolph, the second-year quarterback the team selected in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft.

And when it comes to having confidence in him…the locker room has it.

“He is a great leader,” said JuJu Smith-Schuster. “Someone we all trust.

“We all believe in him, that he is going to step up and do the job. You saw a glimpse of him this past game.”

Rudolph made his NFL debut against the Seahawks on Sunday, coming into the game in the second half after Roethlisberger left the game with the elbow injury. He completed 12 of 19 passes for 112 yards and two touchdowns.

He will make his first NFL start this week against the San Francisco 49ers on the road, and his teammates will have his back.

“Players have to step up. That is just point blank,” said Jaylen Samuels. “We have to step up, make plays, help him, and help each other. Play together and execute. We saw a little glimpse of him (Sunday). He showed what he can do.

“I saw toughness. He ran the ball on a big third down, picked up the third down conversion that we needed. He was standing in the pocket, making reads. He was poised. He didn’t get rattled. Playing that position, you have to be calm. You can’t be in there nervous. You have to be calm and confident and I feel like that is what he was. He is going to grow. I feel like he is going to get better throughout the season.”

Rudolph is stepping in to the spotlight in a similar way that Roethlisberger did 15 years ago, when he played in his first NFL game in Week 2 and started his first NFL game in Week 3 of the 2004 season, stepping in for an injured Tommy Maddox.

“He steps in and does what he is told. He puts in film work. When his number is called, he is ready to go,” said James Washington, who was one of Rudolph’s primary targets when the two played at Oklahoma State. “What he does in practice he takes to the game. He watches film and studies and studies. What he sees from that week of preparation you see him doing that in the game.

“We all have faith in him. We are going to continue to make plays for him. He has to get in there and get comfortable. We have faith in him. We just have to make plays and help him feel comfortable in the pocket. We have the guys around here to do it. We will be all right.”

It is going to be an adjustment, though. Roethlisberger is the longest-tenured player in Steelers’ history in his 16th season as the team’s quarterback. He is a team captain because he is a leader and that will be missed on the field.

“It’s unfortunate,” said Smith-Schuster. “You have a quarterback like that, a Hall of Fame quarterback, a great leader, role model for our team. He taught me so much as a person on and off the field. He made me a better player.

“As a team we just have to play better. Yes, No. 7 is a huge factor in our offense, he makes our offense go. But having No. 2 back there it’s not going to change. We are still going to play the way we play and go hard every day.”

While the Steelers are off to a disappointing 0-2 start, the players in the locker room know there is a lot of football left to play. And while they feel for Roethlisberger for what he is going through and will miss his presence on the field, they know they have to keep on going.

“He’s our unquestioned leader on the offense,” said Ryan Switzer of Roethlisberger. “That being said we have 14 games left. We owe it to ourselves, we owe it to this organization and this fan base to pull it together. No matter if that is Ben at quarterback or Mason at quarterback, we have an obligation to right this ship. That’s how we have to approach it day in and day out from here.”

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