Steelers’ Mike Tomlin: Mason Rudolph ‘is our quarterback’ when healthy
Duck’s dynasty, it appears, will last just one game.
Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin left no doubt Wednesday that Mason Rudolph is the team’s starting quarterback, making the proclamation a few hours before Rudolph was removed from concussion protocol.
Furthermore, Tomlin strongly indicated if the Steelers were not on their bye week, Rudolph already would be practicing in preparation to start the team’s next game.
“That guy (Rudolph) is our quarterback when he clears the protocol,” Tomlin said in briefly addressing reporters, “and it’s as simple as that.
“Appreciate the efforts of ‘Duck’ (Devlin Hodges) and so forth — but as soon as (Rudolph) is ready to go, he’s ready to go.”
The Steelers announced Wednesday afternoon Rudolph was cleared by an independent neurologist to play. Rudolph was placed in concussion protocol after being knocked out of the Steelers’ game Oct. 6 against the Baltimore Ravens in the third quarter.
Hodges, an undrafted rookie, started Sunday’s win at the Los Angeles Chargers. He performed satisfactorily — “He didn’t kill us,” is how Tomlin put it — leading to speculation the Steelers perhaps would stick with a winning formula and hot hand.
Tomlin, though, seemed agitated he even had to address the idea of a quarterback controversy.
Asked if Rudolph was the starter when healthy, Tomlin said, “Yes,” before pausing and saying, “if that makes you guys (in the media) feel good.”
When a follow-up requested clarity as to why, Tomlin began his answer with, “Seriously, guys … ”
Rudolph, the Steelers’ 2018 third-round pick, completed 67% of his passes with seven touchdowns and two interceptions over parts of four games (three starts) after Ben Roethlisberger’s season-ending elbow injury.
Hodges has played five-plus quarters in the wake of Rudolph’s concussion. Hodges, the all-time FCS passing leader, has completed 22 of 29 passes for 200 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
“He generally took care of the ball. He made the plays he needed to make,” Tomlin said. “But we were thoughtful about the positions we put him in.”
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Rudolph practiced last week — albeit while Hodges took reps with the first-team offense — but had not been evaluated by an independent neurologist, so he had not been cleared to play (nor speak to the media) until Wednesday afternoon’s announcement.
“He is progressing nicely,” Tomlin said earlier in the day. “Technically, he’s still in the concussion protocol, but really there’s no extreme urgency in terms of getting out of the protocol because we don’t work again until Monday.
“He’s been fully cleared to participate in the things that we have been doing. He would have been a full participant had we chosen to work out today. So it’s probably semantics or whatever in terms of him getting cleared.”
Offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner also doubles as the Steelers quarterbacks coach. Fichtner said Wednesday he has been impressed with his position room. Quarterbacks meetings that he led during Week 1 included Roethlisberger, Josh Dobbs and Rudolph now consist of Rudolph, Hodges and Paxton Lynch.
“(Lynch) came in two weeks ago, and he’s done nice job, too,” Fichtner said. “I am excited. Their attitude has been growth and confidence, young guys trying to do everything they can to help this team win.”
With Roethlisberger expected back in 2020, the play of Rudolph and Hodges over the final 10 weeks could help determine both players’ long-term futures.
“I think (playing time) is valuable for any quarterback that’s young. Whether you’re evaluating or not, I don’t know about that,” Fichtner said. “But they’re put in position to lead this year, and we are all getting a chance to see where that can go. And that’s exciting to me.”
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .