PITTSBURGH -- Mason Rudolph had a hunch what coach Mike Tomlin was going to tell him Tuesday.
A few days earlier, the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback was benched early in the third quarter for rookie third-stringer Devlin "Duck" Hodges after Rudolph was ineffective and threw a red zone interception against the Bengals.
Tuesday morning, Tomlin told Rudolph that Hodges would be starting Sunday's game against the Cleveland Browns.
"You handle it with a good attitude, with a team-first attitude," Rudolph said. "I can only control how I react and how hard I prepare, knowing that I'm one play away. I'm going to support the guy, knowing that this is a crazy game and you've got to be ready when your number is called. I will be ready, for sure."
Tomlin told Rudolph that the decision to start Hodges wasn't a referendum on his future with the team or even his role for the rest of the season.
"He said this isn't his final decision, and any player wants a chance to play every week," Rudolph said. "That's the way I'm going to look at it and continue to work and grow and learn from mistakes and continue to play well and practice hard."
Rudolph, 24, said the controversy that has followed him since he was involved in a fight with Browns defensive end Myles Garrett during the Steelers' loss to Cleveland in Week 11 didn't affect his preparation or his focus in Cincinnati. But Rudolph admitted that Garrett's accusation that the quarterback used a racial slur has been difficult for his family.
"I think that specific allegation, it affects my family," Rudolph said. "It's tough for them to see something so false be circulated about my family name. That's tough.
"But Coach Tomlin talked about, when in the spotlight, you expect those types of things to be said and you've got to block it out and move on. And that's what I've done, and that's what I'll continue to do."
Among the fight, the turnovers and now the benching, Rudolph is in the midst of a rough stretch. But he says he has been through adversity before and is drawing on those experiences to get through this.
"I'd been benched once in college for a half and once in high school," Rudolph said. "So yeah, there's some past experiences you do draw from. I conquered that, and I think I'll conquer this the same way. Just going to be a matter of staying true to myself and believing in myself and staying in the fight."