Steelers Rumors

Minor NFL Transactions: 12/3/19

We’ll keep track of today’s minor NFL moves here:

Arizona Cardinals

Cleveland Browns

Denver Broncos

  • Claimed: C Patrick Morris (from Steelers)

Detroit Lions

Jacksonville Jaguars

Kansas City Chiefs

Los Angeles Rams

  • Promote TE Kendall Blanton
  • Placed on IR: WR JoJo Natson

Miami Dolphins

Philadelphia Eagles

San Francisco 49ers

Steelers High On Hodges Internally

  • The Steelers benched Mason Rudolph and are rolling with Devlin Hodges at quarterback, and they picked up a crucial win over the Browns on Sunday. Mike Tomlin’s decision to go with Hodges was “was well received throughout the organization,” La Canfora writes in a separate piece. JLC also adds that some people in the building were surprised Tomlin didn’t initially stick with Hodges after he won a game over the Chargers while Rudolph was sidelined with a concussion. He notes that the staff loves Hodges’ scrambling ability, and that he’s been compared to Gardner Minshew by some in the organization. Pittsburgh is apparently pretty high on Hodges and barring injury, it doesn’t sound like we’ll see Rudolph again any time soon.

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.”

North Notes: Stafford, Trubisky, Garrett, Steelers

The Lions have discussed shutting down Matthew Stafford for the season because of his back injury, but that is not what the quarterback wants, and he still is hoping to play again this year, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. According to Schefter, not only does Stafford want to play, but he is, in the words of one source, “maniacal” about it.

Stafford, 31, missed his third straight game this afternoon against the Washington Redskins, which ended in a 19-16 loss. Jeff Driskel once again filled in for Stafford, throwing for an ugly 207 yards, with 1 touchdown and 3 interceptions, with Driskel throwing one of those interceptions at a crucial moment in the 4th quarter with one minute left to play. Before today’s loss, Driskel had started two games, throwing for 478 yards, with 3 touchdowns and 1 interception.

With the fractures in Stafford’s back, surgery is not considered an option, says Schefter. The injuries are potentially chronic, and Stafford knows that the pain, which he has dealt with dating back to last season, could be an issue for him for years to come. But Stafford still wants to return to play this season, despite knowing the risks involved.

It’s unlikely he will be able to return in time for the Lions’ Thanksgiving Day game against the Bears, with Driskel set to make that start.

Here are some more notes from the North:

  • Despite his lackluster play and injury concerns, the Bears are “still firmly behind” Mitchell Trubisky, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. Rapoport goes on to say that the organization feels the entire offense needs to play better, not just Trubisky. Trubisky suffered a hip injury in last week’s loss to the Rams, but made the start in this afternoon’s 19-14 win over the Giants. In the win, the former second overall pick threw for 278 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions, while also rushing for a score.
  • Although Myles Garrett‘s suspension was upheld and he will miss the rest of this season, the NFL is hopeful and optimistic that the Pro Bowl pass rusher will not miss any games next season, league sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Schefter goes on to say that the NFL has mandated that Garrett must meet with the commissioner’s office during the offseason, and the NFL is doing that because it wants to see how he reacts to the lengthy suspension after the brawl that he was a part of earlier this month against the Steelers. Since losing the appeal, Garrett stands to lose about $1.2MM in salary for missing the six remaining games this season.
  • After the Steelers benched quarterback Mason Rudolph for Devlin Hodges in their 16-10 win over the Bengals this afternoon, Mike Tomlin said he felt like the offense just needed a spark, and that “Mason wasn’t doing enough.”, relays NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero. Tomlin would go on to say they’ll “see what next week holds”, with regard to his starting quarterback for next week’s matchup against the Browns. Hodges, a rookie out of Samford University, who signed with the Steelers as an undrafted free agent this past spring and was promoted off of the practice squad after Ben Roethlisberger’s injury, finished the game 5-of-11 for 118 yards and a touchdown in the comeback win. Before being benched, Rudolph was struggling, completing just 8 of 16 pass attempts for 65 yards and an interception.

 

Numerous Players Fined For Brawl

While last week’s focus on the brawl that ended with an indefinite suspension for Myles Garrett centered on his ugly on-field act, this week produced an explosive allegation from the Browns defensive end. Although Garrett did not accuse Mason Rudolph of using a racial slur publicly after the fight, he did say that occurred when pleading his case to the NFL. However, Garrett also told some of his Browns teammates the Steelers quarterback used the slur, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com reports. Freddie Kitchens added that he believes Garrett, who is not permitted to communicate with the Browns until he’s reinstated. The Steelers have denied the slur occurred, as did Rudolph’s attorney. Garrett’s statement indicated Rudolph’s alleged slur does not excuse his actions, but with the Browns and Steelers set to play again next week in Pittsburgh, with Rudolph presumably under center, this is likely to come up again soon.

Steelers QB Mason Rudolph Fined $50K

The Steelers/Browns brawl will end up costing Mason Rudolph a pretty penny. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports (via Twitter) that the quarterback has been fined $50K for his role in the fight. Rapoport adds that additional players will be or have been fined.

We previously heard that Rudolph had escaped a suspension but was slapped with a fine. It was clear from camera angles that the 24-year-old played a role in escalating the confrontation with Myles Garrett, as he tugged at the defensive end’s helmet after being driven to the ground. After having his own helmet removed, the quarterback charged Garrett, with some pundits suggesting that Rudolph himself should have earned a suspension.

Further, Garrett has alleged that Rudolph used a racial slur towards him during the buildup to the brawl. The quarterback has denied the accusation, and the NFL said it found no evidence of the slur. Garrett has since doubled down on the claim.

As Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com points out, the $50K fine is one of the largest penalties of the 2019 campaign. The writer also opines that Rudolph could have a case during a potential appeal; players with no previous offenses generally get their fines reduced if the fine exceeds 25-percent of the player’s weekly salary. As David Smith points out, Rudolph is making a bit under $39K each week.

We learned earlier this week that Garrett’s suspension would stand as is, as the NFL upheld the indefinite ban. Interestingly, Howard Balzer points out (via Twitter) that the league’s official transaction report doesn’t list Garrett’s suspension as indefinite. Rather, it says the suspension is for the remainder of the regular season and postseason.

Steelers offensive lineman Maurkice Pouncey successfully appealed his penalty, dropping his suspension from three games to two games. The NFL had previously upheld Larry Ogunjobi‘s one-game suspension.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Anthony Chickillo Won't Face League Discipline

The Steelers aren’t going to have to worry about an Anthony Chickillo suspension. The linebacker was arrested last month on charges of assaulting his girlfriend, but the charges were later dropped. The NFL conducted their own inquiry, and determined there was “insufficient evidence and the investigation is now closed with no punishment,” a source told Mark Kaboly of The Athletic (Twitter link). Chickillo was placed on the commissioner’s exempt list after the arrest, but was removed from it a few weeks back. He ended up only missing one game, a win over the Dolphins, due to the incident. He plays a rotational role on defense while also playing heavy snaps on special teams.

  • The XFL is getting another relative big name. Former Steelers receiver Eli Rogers will be playing in the upstart league when it kicks off next year, he announced on Twitter. A former undrafted free agent from Louisville, Rogers had a breakout year in his first season of action back in 2016. He developed a rapport with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, and ended up starting eight games while finishing 594 yards and three touchdowns. A torn ACL the following year derailed his once-promising career, and Rogers was waived at final cuts this past August. Since then he’s been making the rounds with workouts, but has been unable to latch on with an NFL team.

Diontae Johnson Cleared To Return

While different accounts have surfaced about how the brawl started, the NFL has issued final rulings on the central cogs in the Browns-Steelers melee. One interesting fallout item: Myles Garrett‘s appeal being denied will leave him on his own for a while. The Browns are not permitted to communicate with the star defensive end during his suspension, Freddie Kitchens confirmed (via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, on Twitter). This sort of banishment is usually associated with players battling bans for off-field conduct, but Garrett’s case is certainly unique. This could prove interesting if the Browns make Kitchens a one-and-done coach. Garrett would not be permitted to discuss a new scheme with the team. With NFL appeals officer James Thrash denying the former No. 1 overall pick’s case at avoiding an indefinite suspension, Garrett must apply for reinstatement in the 2020 offseason.

  • A.J. Green will not join Glenn in uniform against the Steelers. The ninth-year wideout will miss his 11th game of the season and 15th straight. Green is looking at a missed season and is set to profile as one of the more interesting free agents in recent years. The 31-year-old receiver has not practice since Nov. 4.
  • The Steelers have officially ruled out JuJu Smith-Schuster out for Week 12, but the team did see quick progress from fellow wideout starter Diontae Johnson. The rookie cleared concussion protocol and is not listed on Pittsburgh’s injury report. He and James Washington will go into Cincinnati as Mason Rudolph‘s top targets.