When the Pittsburgh Steelers selected Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft, future Hall-of-Famer and All-Pro grouch Ben Roethlisberger welcomed him to the team by questioning why he was there at all.
“I was surprised when they took a quarterback because I thought that maybe in the third round, you know you can get some really good football players that can help this team now,” said Roethlisberger, whose favorite offseason pastime is publicly mulling retirement.
It only took 17 months for karma to catch up with him.
Roethlisberger, who had never started fewer than 11 games during his first 15 years in the league, suffered a season-ending injury during the Steelers’ Week 2 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, making – guess who? – QB-of-the-future Mason Rudolph the Steelers’ de facto QB-of-the-present.
Within hours, the Roethlisberger rumor mill had begun churning out the requisite will-he-or-won’t-he retirement takes. That’s not remarkable.
What is remarkable is how many Steelers fans appear ready to dump the six-time Pro Bowler and two-time Super Bowl champion in the trash bin following Mason Rudolph’s NFL debut.
Rudolph completed 12-of-19 passes for 112 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. That earned him a 92.5 passer rating in his first-ever start, along with the undying affections of the Pittsburgh fanbase’s more fickle contingents.
Sure, I hand-picked those tweets to push a narrative, but they weren’t exactly hard to find, either. “Mason Rudolph” is trending, and it’s an all-out love-fest.
The “Big Ben” tag? You’d think the man had died.
I mean, it’s not like this is a ghost-of-Eli Manning/Daniel Jones scenario.
Before heading to the IR, Roethlisberger was 35-of-62 for 351 yards, no touchdowns, and 1 interception. He’ll end the season with a career-worst 20.8 QBR, according to data from Pro Football Reference. That’s not pretty, but it’s also a small sample size (And it sounds like his elbow was troubling him in Week 1).
After all, Big Ben did lead the NFL in passing yards (5,129) and set a franchise season record for passing touchdowns (34) in 2018, not that Steeler Nation remembers. Or cares.
It’s the Mason Rudolph era, baby, and Steelers fans will ride that train as far as it takes them, most likely toward the top of the 2020 NFL draft.
This article was edited by Josiah Wilmoth.