Mason Rudolph will start at quarterback in Steelers’ 2nd preseason game
The reviews on their performances on Chuck Noll Field the past three weeks have been up-and-down. But once Josh Dobbs and Mason Rudolph got into a game, each made plays and impressed.
The competition for the No. 2 quarterback job is heating up, and the stage it will again play out on is the Heinz Field turf.
Rudolph will get his turn to start a preseason game, coach Mike Tomlin confirmed on the final day of Pittsburgh Steelers 2019 training camp at Saint Vincent. Dobbs will be the second quarterback in during Saturday’s second preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
“They’re being evaluated with everything that they do,” Tomlin said, “but you acknowledge the in-stadium play is weighted a little bit differently because it’s not football-like. The situations aren’t scripted. It’s football, it’s fluid. Intellect and the ability to adapt and understand the ever-changing situations are part of the evaluation. That’s why in-stadium action is weighted a little bit heavier and appropriately so.”
As has been typical protocol in recent years, 37-year-old Ben Roethlisberger will sit out against the Chiefs, as he did the first preseason game last week. Roethlisberger is expected to get his only preseason action in the third game at Tennessee.
Tomlin said he has “every intention” of getting Devlin Hodges into the game, too. But while the man they affectionately call “Duck” has been impressive for a No. 4 QB, the contest for the No. 2 is a two-horse race.
“You guys will make it into a huge competition,” Dobbs said to a handful of reporters, “but at the end of the day you are competing against yourself, trying to improve. Every day, focusing on one thing to get better at, whether it’s fundamentally, whether it mindset, mentally, something in the classroom, the communication with the O-line or the receivers — just find one way to get better at and go out there and stack days and try to get better each day. That’s my emphasis on the field.”
— Tribune-ReviewSports (@TribSports) May 29, 2019
Dobbs and Rudolph each went 5 for 8 during last week’s preseason opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, though Rudolph threw two touchdown passes and led the offense to 17 points in four possessions as the second passer in. The Steelers scored three points in Dobbs’ two possessions, though in addition to 85 passing yards Dobbs also had a 36-yard scramble to set up a field goal.
This time, though, Rudolph will be going against more NFL starting-caliber defenders. Of course, he will also be the one to have more quality veteran talent around him on the Steelers offense, too.
Tomlin downplayed this as a factor in any of his quarterbacks’ performance, and while generally so did Dobbs and Rudolph, getting snaps with starters is the proverbial elephant in the room.
“A better quality of teammates around you helps elevate your game,” Rudolph said. “Saturday is not going to be totally ‘1s,’ but it will be a good group of guys. It will be fun. Those are valuable reps.”
In admittedly small sample sizes for the third-year Dobbs and second-year Rudolph, each seems to be the quarterback who shines more in games than on the practice field. For Dobbs, that in part is because of his speed and playmaking ability while running.
Rudolph has a little bit of “gunslinger” in him where he’s not afraid to attempt long passes and shoot for big plays. In particular, the chemistry he developed with former Oklahoma State teammate James Washington can show during the preseason.
“I think one of the things that really attracted us to (Rudolph) out of Stillwater was that level of aggression, the way that he attacked defenses vertically and threw the ball,” Tomlin said. “I know that that’s his style, that’s his demeanor — and it’s showing more and more consistently.”
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .