Mason Rudolph

Steelers’ Tomlin On Big Ben, AB

In an interview with ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, head coach Mike Tomlin touched on some of the biggest storylines surrounding the Steelers this offseason. A quick rundown of the highlights:

  • Despite missing the bulk of the 2019 season with detached tendons in his arm, Ben Roethlisberger has vowed to come back stronger than ever in 2019. In the interview, Tomlin expressed unwavering confidence in Big Ben’s road to recovery. “I have no hesitation,” Tomlin said when asked about Roethlisberger’s availability for the 2020 season (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Field Yates). Recently, Steelers GM Kevin Colbert echoed those sentiments. The Steelers will not be among the many clubs engaged in this year’s QB carousel, though it stands to reason that they’ll consider quality backups and prospects who can be groomed for the future.
  • Antonio Brown is seeking to restore his reputation and return to the NFL, but he won’t be getting a second chance with the Steelers. “We have no current business interest at this time,” Tomlin said (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Brooke Pryor). No surprise here – even before Brown’s personal life went into a tailspin, the wide receiver spent his final Steelers seasons at odds with Tomlin, Big Ben, and other key figures within the organization. It’s hard to see a path for Brown to get back to football, but he says that he’ll be in attendance at the combine later this month in hopes of talking with NFL teams.
  • After his reinstatement, Browns defensive end Myles Garrett stood by his claim that Steelers QB Mason Rudolph uttered a racial slur to ignite the infamous brawl. Rudolph has rejected those claims and Tomlin stands with him. “I think his reputation needs to be defended and defended aggressively,” Tomlin said (Twitter link via Pryor).

NFL Upholds Steelers Mason Rudolph $50,000 Fine

The NFL is finally done litigating the infamous fight between the Browns and Steelers on November 14th of last season. The fight’s signature moment came when Browns defensive end Myles Garrett swung Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph‘s helmet at his bare head. The league’s discipline, which included numerous fines and suspensions for players on both teams, was headlined by an indefinite suspension of Garrett. It was reported earlier today that the league reinstated Garrett and, according to Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network, the league finally reviewed Rudolph’s appeal of his $50,000 fine and upheld their original decision.

When the news of Garrett’s reinstatement originally broke, one of Garafolo’s colleagues at the NFL Network, Ian Rapoport, noted a previous report from Garafolo that Rudolph’s appeal had yet to be decided due to a backlog at the league office. However, Garafolo quickly responded to Rapoport citing “a source” that informed him the decision to uphold Rudolph’s fine had indeed been made.

At the time of the incident, Garrett claimed Rudolph used a racial slur, which sparked his angry outburst. However, per Jay Glazer of Fox Sports, the team told Garrett to keep the allegation between him and the league before his disciplinary meeting. The allegation leaked to the media nearly a week after the incident and the league claimed they found no evidence to substantiate Garrett’s claims. Regardless, Rudolph did appear to instigate Garrett in the incident and thus, was fined $50,000.

AFC North Notes: Burrow, Stefanski, Ravens

The Bengals are widely expected to take LSU QB Joe Burrow with the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, but there may be a bit of intrigue in that regard, per Albert Breer of SI.com. Burrow will work with former Bengal Jordan Palmer, the little brother of franchise icon Carson Palmer, for his pre-draft training. And the elder Palmer recently had some critical comments for Cincinnati, saying that the club was never really dedicated to chasing a Super Bowl.

Burrow subsequently said the following: “[y]ou want to go No. 1. But you also want to go to a great organization that is committed to winning. Committed to winning Super Bowls.” That may just be a coincidence, and Burrow’s father recently downplayed any notion that Burrow doesn’t want to be picked by the Bengals (Twitter link via Jeremy Rauch of FOX 19), but Breer believes Bengals Director of Player Personnel Duke Tobin may need to sell Burrow on the team just a bit.

Now for more from the AFC North:

  • As expected, the Bengals have promoted Dan Pitcher to quarterbacks coach after Alex Van Pelt left for Cleveland’s OC job, the team announced. Pitcher will have a significant role in Burrow’s development, assuming Cincy selects the LSU signal-caller.
  • We passed along some remarks from new Browns GM Andrew Berry earlier today, and new Cleveland HC Kevin Stefanski also took to the podium. Scott Patsko of Cleveland.com passes along the entire transcript, which is worth a read for Browns fans, but much of it was fairly non-committal coach-speak, which Stefanski has already mastered. Stefanski, though, made it a point to note that he will be heavily involved in making personnel decisions with Berry, and he said he does not know who will be calling offensive plays this year.
  • Though the Ravens have more cap flexibility this year than in past seasons, Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic does not expect a spending spree. He predicts perhaps one big-ticket item and a few modest signings, and much will depend on what the club decides to do with pass rusher Matt Judon — a situation that is still fluid — and whether RG Marshal Yanda retires. He also names OL James Hurst as a potential release candidate.
  • Steelers president Art Rooney II indicated his club may target a RB and/or WR in free agency, per Teresa Varley of Steelers.com, though Rooney said Pittsburgh is content with the quarterback situation as it is. Behind Ben Roethlisberger, the club will roll with some combination of Mason Rudolph, Duck Hodges, and Paxton Lynch.

Steelers To Keep Mason Rudolph

Mason Rudolph will return to the Steelers in 2020, head coach Mike Tomlin says (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Brooke Pryor). Rudolph will serve as the backup to Ben Roethlisberger, who says he intends to play in 2020 and make a full recovery from his season-ending elbow injury

[RELATED: Big Ben Vows To Return]

Rudolph had an up-and-down year, to say the least. Putting aside the infamous Browns brawl, Rudolph had some solid moments as Big Ben’s midseason fill-in. He ultimately went 5-3 in eight starts with 13 touchdowns against nine interceptions. Things got more turbulent as the season went on, however, and he was ultimately leapfrogged by Devlin Hodges. Rudolph took the reins back from Duck midway through the Steelers’ Week 16 game against the Jets, but he was forced out by a shoulder injury that ultimately ended his season.

Tomlin says he wishes he got to see more out of Rudolph in 2019 and he’ll be able to take a closer look at the 24-year-old next year as he holds the clipboard for Roethlisberger.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Steelers Place Mason Rudolph On IR

The Steelers have placed quarterback Mason Rudolph on injured reserve, per a club announcement. To fill his roster spot, they promoted center J.C. Hassenauer from the practice squad.

Rudolph took over for Devlin Hodges in last week’s game against the Jets and took them from a 10-0 deficit to a 10-10 tie. Unfortunately, a shoulder injury forced him out of the game, and the Steelers went on to lose 16-10.

Without Rudolph, the Steelers will forge ahead with Devlin Hodges as their starter against the Ravens. Rudolph’s season ends with a 5-3 record in eight starts and 13 touchdowns against nine interceptions. Rudolph had his moments as Ben Roethlisberger‘s fill-in this year, but he also had a rocky stretch that resulted in getting leapfrogged by Duck.

Hodges and Paxton Lynch will serve as the only QBs on the roster for Week 17 as the Steelers fight for a wild card spot. There are a few scenarios that could put the Steelers in the playoffs, but the simplest one is this – if the Steelers win and the Titans lose, they’re in.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Mason Rudolph Out At Least Several Weeks, Won’t Start In Playoffs

Right after the Mason Rudolph redemption arc started, it was immediately put to rest. The Steelers quarterback is “out multiple weeks” with the shoulder injury he suffered during Pittsburgh’s loss to the Jets, a source told Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link).

Rapoport adds that even if Pittsburgh makes it into the postseason, “Rudolph is not expected to be available.” That means Devlin Hodges will be the starter in Week 17 against the Ravens, and potentially in a playoff game. Pittsburgh needs to beat Baltimore, and to have Tennessee either tie or lose to Houston, to get the final wild card spot in the AFC. Rudolph, a third-round pick in 2018, immediately took over under center when Ben Roethlisberger first went down all the way back at the beginning of the season.

He missed a game with a concussion and Hodges performed reasonably well, and when Rudolph struggled mightily upon returning, he was quickly benched for Hodges. After an initial honeymoon period Hodges began to turn the ball over frequently as well, and he was pulled against New York. Rudolph provided an initial spark and was playing well, before going down with the shoulder injury.

Former first-round Broncos bust Paxton Lynch is also on the roster, and will back up Hodges. It sure would be something if he manages to find his way onto the field. Fortunately for their cause, it looks like the Ravens are going to be resting a lot of their starters in Week 17. It’s been a rollercoaster of a season for the Steelers, and this is just the latest turn in a wild sequence of events.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Injury Updates: Ingram, Haskins, Murray

Here are the key injuries which we’ve seen some reporting on:

  • The Ravens officially clinched the top seed in the AFC with their win over the Browns on Sunday, but Baltimore fans were left holding their breath when running back Mark Ingram went down with a calf injury. Head coach John Harbaugh told reporters after the game there’s no structural damage, but a source told Adam Schefter of ESPN.com that Ingram suffered a calf strain (Twitter link). Ingram was wearing a walking boot after a game, via a tweet from Josina Anderson of ESPN. Harbaugh was trying to sound optimistic, but calf strains can linger. Fortunately for Baltimore, he’ll have Week 17 and a first-round bye to rest.
  • Dwayne Haskins has been getting a lot better recently, so it was unfortunate to see him go down with an ankle injury during the Redskins’ loss to the Giants. Interestingly, Haskins said after the game that he lobbied to return, but owner Dan Snyder personally told him not to go back in, per John Keim of ESPN.com. Normally it’d be unusual for an owner to be consulting directly with a player during a game, but this is the Redskins we’re talking about. Washington is in line for the second overall pick right now, and they could opt to be conservative and sit Haskins in Week 17.
  • Speaking of rookie quarterbacks, Kyler Murray was also knocked out on Sunday with a hamstring injury. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury told reporters after the game he wasn’t sure if Murray would be able to play in Week 17 against the Rams. Murray had a large wrap on his hamstring and if it was bad enough to knock him out immediately he could be up against it to play next week. Brett Hundley, who finished off Arizona’s upset win over the Seahawks, would start next week if he isn’t ready.
  • One last quarterback update, as Mason Rudolph was sidelined with a shoulder injury shortly after being reinserted for a benched Devlin Hodges. The Steelers’ quarterback situation is an absolute mess right now as they prepare for a must-win game against the Ravens. Hodges came back in for Rudolph, and resumed struggling. Rudolph provided an instant spark after relieving Hodges, so he’ll almost certainly start against Baltimore if he’s healthy. Rudolph was seen leaving the stadium with his arm in a sling, per Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Twitter link).
  • The Titans can clinch a playoff berth with a Week 17 win over the Texans, and fortunately they’ll be getting a boost to their offense. Running back Derrick Henry was inactive for their loss to the Saints on Sunday, but he is expected to play against Houston, a source told Schefter (Twitter link). Henry has been dealing with a hamstring issue.
  • The winner of the Week 17 game between the 49ers and Seahawks will determine who wins the NFC West and in turn hosts a playoff game, and both sides are banged up. San Francisco pass-rusher Dee Ford has missed most of the last month with a hamstring injury and he’s not expected to play against Seattle, a source told Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports. They gave up a second-round pick to land Ford this offseason, then signed him to a massive extension, and he’s been a bit of a disappointment. Fortunately for the 49ers, the Seahawks are dealing with even more significant health issues.

Steelers Bench QB Mason Rudolph

It’s now official, per an announcement from head coach Mike Tomlin. The Steelers will start quarterback Devlin Hodges this week against the Browns, sending Mason Rudolph to the bench. 

[RELATED – Browns’ Garrett On Racial Slur: I Know What I Heard]

Rudolph completed just 8 of 16 passes for 65 yards and a red zone interception before being yanked against the Bengals. After Hodges entered in the third quarter, he finished out 5-of-11 for 118 yards and a touchdown in a comeback win.

Tomlin was non-committal when asked about a potential shakeup after Sunday’s game, but this was the expected move. Hodges is not a world-beater, nor does he profile as the heir apparent to Ben Roethlisberger, but he might be the team’s better option as they push for the playoffs.

At 6-5, the Steelers have a 27% chance of making the playoffs, according to FiveThirtyEight. In the next three weeks, they’ll see the Browns, Cardinals, and Bills.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Steelers To Name Devlin Hodges Starter?

The 6-5 Steelers found themselves in a tight battle with the 0-11 Bengals on Sunday, and a quarterback switch helped them fend off their winless rivals. Pittsburgh HC Mike Tomlin benched Mason Rudolph in favor of Devlin Hodges in the third quarter, and Hodges finished 5-of-11 for 118 yards and a touchdown in the comeback win.

Rudolph, meanwhile, was just 8 of 16 for 65 yards and a red zone interception before being removed. In addition to his role in the victory over Cincinnati, Hodges also won his only start of the season — on the road against the Chargers in Week 6, when Rudolph was sidelined with a concussion — and he nearly led the team to another victory against the Ravens the week before, taking over when Rudolph was knocked out by a helmet-to-helmet hit.

Hodges, a UDFA rookie from Samford, is hardly considered the heir apparent to Ben Roethlisberger, while there was some hope that Rudolph might be. But Rudolph has not done much to suggest that he is the long-term answer, and Hodges might be the better option right now for a Steelers club with a strong defense that still has a chance at the postseason.

To that end, Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network (video link) believes the Steelers are heading for a QB change. Tomlin was non-committal when asked about a potential shakeup after Sunday’s game, and Rapoport says the veteran HC could keep rolling with Rudolph, but the fact that Tomlin was comfortable enough to make an in-game change suggests that he was at least considering the move ahead of time. Rudolph’s struggles, combined with Hodges’ relative — albeit modest — success could force Tomlin’s hand.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

QB Notes: Wentz, Rudolph, Darnold, Carr

Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz struggled once again in Philadelphia’s 17-9 loss to the Seahawks. Wentz received a x-ray on his right hand during the second half of the game, but would not blame his poor play on the injury, according to Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk. In his postgame press conference, when asked if the injury affected his play, he said, “I don’t think it did.” Eagles head coach Doug Pederson clarified that the x-rays were negative, but Wentz would go through further tests.

Whether the injury played a role or not, Philadelphia needs to find an answer for their offensive woes. Wentz made a number of poor decisions, but two passes to open receivers in the flat that sailed well out of reach were especially emblematic of his problems. The Eagles are now 5-6 on the season, but have a vital stretch of their schedule against Miami, New York, and Washington. It will be crucial for their playoff chances to come out victorious against three of the weakest teams in the league.

Check out some other notes on quarterbacks around the league:

  • After being benched in the Steelers 16-10 win over the Bengals, quarterback Mason Rudolph addressed allegations from Browns defensive end Myles Garrett that Rudolph used a racial slur last week on Thursday Night Football. Rudolph adamantly denied the claims with reporters after the game, writes Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. “I couldn’t believe it and I couldn’t believe that he would go that route after the fact. But it is what it is and I think I’ve moved on. One day it was tough, but moved on. We’re good to go now.” Rudolph reiterated the claims were “totally untrue” and when asked if he said anything that could have been construed in a racist way he said, ““Absolutely not.’’
  • Young quarterback Sam Darnold was criticized a few weeks ago for talking about the playoffs with half the season remaining, but the young Jets gunslinger is showing progress dealing with the media, according to Rich Cimini of ESPN. Darnold mentioned that the playoffs were in the back of his mind after 34-3 blowout win against the Raiders, but quickly made clear that he is taking the season one game at a time. This season has definitely been a roller coaster for Darnold who is still looking to string a few strong games together after missing the start of the season dealing with mononucleosis.
  • Raiders quarterback Derek Carr was benched amidst a blowout loss to the Jets by head coach Jon Gruden. The move is not meant to create any controversy at the position, however. Carr was removed alongside other important players in Oakland’s rotation to protect them from injury down 31 in the third quarter. Still, Gruden acknowledged the difficulty decision talking with reporters after the game, according to Jerry McDonald of The Mercury News. “I didn’t want to take him out, but doing what I think is right and I’m sure I’ll be second-guessed for that but I think I’m doing what’s right for our football team.”