After finding out less than 24 hours before kickoff that he was starting last Sunday against the Detroit Lions, quarterback Mason Rudolph has this entire week to prepare to start against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday night.
Yes, Rudolph does have the entire week to prepare.
But whether he is starting or not this week, well it's your guess as well as Rudolph's.
Ben Roethlisberger missed last Sunday's game against the Lions after being placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 List. There is still a chance Roethlisberger, who is vaccinated, could play on Sunday against the Chargers if he gets two negative tests and is symptom-free for 48 hours, which is what he would need to return to the active roster.
"Sully's (quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan) been meeting with him on Zoom, and they do their quarterback meeting," said Rudolph. "I get updates. I really haven't had updates on anything that you guys don't have. I guess what his deal is, he's got to have two negative tests. I wish I could tell you. I'm moving along at this same pace you guys are, so we'll see what happens. I only worry about meeting time prep and practice."
Rudolph went through a similar scenario last season when Roethlisberger was deemed a close contact and placed on the COVID-19 List as well. Rudolph prepared all week in practice to play, but Roethlisberger was cleared and started in the Week 10 win over the Cincinnati Bengals.
"Whether he plays or not is out of my control," said Rudolph. "What I can control is having good practices and leading the guys and prepping hard with Sully and (offensive coordinator) Matt Canada and we'll see what happens as we get later into the week.
"It's just the nature of being a backup quarterback right now. There's ebb and flow. Coach Sully calls it midstream adjust. You've got to adjust and always be ready. I think having those experiences with Cincy last year and over my career has helped me kind of be ready to flip on a dime. I find out last Saturday right before we went to the hotel, so you go through those storms and you're hardened from it."
In the meantime, though, Rudolph is preparing as if he will be the starter on Sunday. He is working closely with Canada and Sullivan, giving his input into what he likes, what works for him, as the week progresses and taking advantage of every rep he can get.
"We have a unique situation where we get to practice on Wednesdays usually, so that keeps you sharp throughout the season," said Rudolph, referring to Roethlisberger normally resting on Wednesdays. "But a full week of practice is invaluable and we're off to a good start. Got lots to work on, but I think we've got a good plan and practice tomorrow and then we'll keep moving to Sunday.
"Each week we put out our favorite plays in the game plan. So that hasn't changed all year. They have a feel for what we prefer. They do a great job of tailoring that to likes for me this week. I feel comfortable with the plan. It's great to have Coach Sullivan and Coach Canada working together on it. It's a good process we have."
No matter how good the process is, come the end of the week, Rudolph could have put in all of the work and find himself the starter, or the backup, which would obviously be somewhat of a disappointment.
"I think anytime you can't play, every week that I don't play, I feel a little bit of disappointment," said Rudolph. "That's the battle between self and team. I think we're all going to feel that way inside, but at the end of the freaking day, what matters is the team and going out and winning the game. So, regardless of who's playing the quarterback position, we want to win. And we want to continue to put wins in our column and set ourselves up for the postseason. So that's the mindset."