Mason Rudolph will start the Steelers’ second preseason game this Saturday against the Kansas City Chiefs at Heinz Field, head coach Mike Tomlin said during his final pre-game press conference on Thursday.
The second-year quarterback impressed during his action while backing up Josh Dobbs in Pittsburgh’s preseason opener against Tampa Bay last Friday, and is one of several players that Tomlin expects to have a larger role the second time around after doing well in the first game.
“Guys that performed well last time out with get more exposure this time and probably more exposure against stiffer competition,” Tomlin said.
Tomlin said that Dobbs will play after Rudolph and that fourth-string rookie Devlin Hodges is expected to get some work, as well.
Rudolph attempted just eight passes against the Buccaneers, but he made them count, completing five for 91 yards and two touchdowns. That’s an 11.3 yards per attempt average, a large growth from the 7.2 yards per attempt Rudolph averaged in the 2018 preseason as a rookie.
“I think one of the things that really attracted us to him out of Stillwater was the level of aggression, they way that he attacked defenses vertically and threw the ball,” Tomlin said. “I know that’s his style, that’s his demeanor and it’s showing more and more consistently.”
While Rudolph’s first action against the Bucs came toward the end of the first half, he’ll get the opportunity to go against Kansas City starters — or as many of them will play.
Tomlin said that he expects to use more of his starters than he used in Week 1 of the preseason. Only right tackle Matt Feiler, inside linebacker Mark Barron and strong safety Terrell Edmunds started against Tampa Bay.
But the Steelers honestly don’t have that many position battles amongst the starters. The entire offense is returning except for Antonio Brown and Marcus Gilbert, and Feiler and Donte Moncrief seem to have locked up those spots.
On defense, Steven Nelson supplanted Artie Burns and Barron, first-round pick Devin Bush and Vince Williams are battling for two spots at inside linebacker. Instead, Tomlin is more focused on those players that are battling for jobs, whether it’s a game day helmet, a 53-man roster spot or a position on the practice squad.
“We are excited about this second opportunity, and I think the key element of that is opportunity,” Tomlin said. “Opportunities are starting to get scarce as we come to the conclusion of camp and start to continually step into stadiums. The sand is running through the hourglass. Guys are losing opportunities to state a case for themselves. There’s a certain urgency.”
With that being said, he’s “leaving the door open,” to use one of his pet phrases, for any player that is still working their way back from injury. A long list of Steelers missed practice on Wednesday, including Bush, David DeCastro, Zach Gentry, Joe Haden, Maurkice Pouncey, Christian Scotland-Williamson, Sutton Smith and Vince Williams. Tomlin didn’t rule any of them out for Saturday night’s game at Heinz Field.
Packers Could Pass Steelers in All-Time Playoff Wins in NFC Championship Game
The Green Bay Packers can pass the Pittsburgh Steelers in the NFL record books with a win in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday.
The Packers and Steelers are currently tied with 36 all-time NFL playoff wins, the second-most behind the New England Patriots, who have 37.
The Packers will be playing the man responsible for most of those wins in New England, now-Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady.
Both the Packers and Patriots have a higher postseason winning percentage than the Steelers, with New England holding a 37-21 record and Green Bay 36-23, while Pittsburgh is 26-26 after a Wild Card Round loss to Cleveland this month.
None of the other top five teams, including Dallas (35-28) and San Francisco (32-30) are still alive this year. Tampa Bay has just eight playoff wins in its history, the sixth-fewest in league history.
The Buffalo Bills (16-17) and Kansas City Chiefs (14-19) are 19th and 20th in playoff wins entering their AFC Championship Game showdown on Saturday.
Mike Tomlin: Hall of Fame Class of 2021 Incomplete without Steelers Scout Bill Nunn
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin doesn’t get a vote when it comes to who enters the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but he made his opinions known on who he thinks should be a part of the Hall’s Class of 2021, making a public plea on Monday for former Steelers scout Bill Nunn to be included.
“There is no way the Class of 2021 can be complete without the legend, Bill Nunn, being a part of it,” Tomlin wrote.
Nunn, who died in 2014, was selected as the lone finalist recommended by the nine-member contributor committee in August. He, senior committee finalist Drew Pearson, coaches committee finalist Tom Flores and 15 modern-era finalists, including former Steelers guard Alan Faneca, will all be on the ballot when the voters meet before the Super Bowl.
Nunn, a Homewood native and Westinghouse alum, was a key figure in the Steelers’ success in the 1970s and helped revolutionize the scouting process for players at historically black colleges and universities, that had been previously underrepresented in the NFL after having worked as a sportswriter with the Pittsburgh Courier.
“Bill’s contributions to the Steelers were extraordinary over the 46 years he was part of the organization,” Steelers president Art Rooney II said in a press release in August. “He was a special person that was a close friend and mentor before his passing in 2014. His lessons and stories are still evident in our everyday work.
“I look forward to hopefully celebrating his induction next year at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His legacy and career deserve to be recognized with the greatest individual honor in football, and we are excited he was chosen by the contributor committee as a finalist.”
Tomlin also wished luck to three players that he coached: former Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive backs Ronde Barber and John Lynch and Faneca.
Want to wish the absolute best of luck to three deserving @ProFootballHOF finalists, Ronde Barber, Alan Faneca and John Lynch, all who I have had the honor to work with.
And there is no way the Class of 2021 can be complete without the legend, Bill Nunn, being a part of it.
— Mike Tomlin (@CoachTomlin) January 18, 2021
Steelers Minkah Fitzpatrick, T.J. Watt Named to PFWA All-NFL Team
For the second season in a row, Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and outside linebacker T.J. Watt have been named to the Pro Football Writers of American All-AFC and All-NFL teams for the second consecutive season.
Fitzpatrick was also named an Associated Press All-Pro this season for the second straight year. In 2020, Fitzpatrick had 79 total tackles, eleven passes defended and a team-high four interceptions, one of which he returned for a 37-yard touchdown.
The other All-NFL and All-AFC safety was Tyrann Mathieu of the Kansas City Chiefs.
Watt was also named a first-team AP All-Pro after leading the NFL in sacks, tackles for loss and quarterback hits. His 15 sacks were one off a franchise record and he racked them up while playing in only 15 games.
Watt was named the FOX Sports NFL Defensive Player of the Year and remains the favorite to win the prestigious AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year award at the postseason NFL Honors banquet.
Watt was also named the Steelers’ team MVP for the second straight season after finishing with 53 tackles, 26 tackles for loss, 41 quarterbacks hits, two forced fumbles and an interception this season.
The other All-NFL outside linebacker was Khalil Mack of the Chicago Bears, while Bradley Chubb of the Cleveland Browns was the other All-AFC outside linebacker.
Both players were also selected to the 2021 NFL Pro Bowl team. The Pro Bowl will not be played. Instead, the Pro Bowl events will be led virtually and the game will be streamed via Madden NFL 21.
Only the Steelers and Los Angeles Rams had two All-NFL players on defense, tackle Aaron Donald and cornerback Jalen Ramsey. The Green Bay Packers had the most players selected with three, quarterback Aaron Rodgers, tackle David Bakhitiari and wide receiver Davante Adams.
Full All-NFL team:
2020 PFWA ALL-NFL TEAM
QB – Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
RB – Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings; Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans*
WR – Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers; Stefon Diggs, Buffalo Bills
TE – Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs
C – Corey Linsley, Green Bay Packers
G – Joel Bitonio, Cleveland Browns; Quenton Nelson, Indianapolis Colts#
T – David Bakhtiari, Green Bay Packers; Jack Conklin, Cleveland Browns
DE – Myles Garrett, Cleveland Browns; Trey Hendrickson, New Orleans Saints
DT – DeForest Buckner, Indianapolis Colts; Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams^
OLB – Khalil Mack, Chicago Bears; T.J. Watt, Pittsburgh Steelers*
MLB – Fred Warner, San Francisco 49ers
CB – Xavien Howard, Miami Dolphins; Jalen Ramsey, Los Angeles Rams
S – Minkah Fitzpatrick, Pittsburgh Steelers*; Tyrann Mathieu, Kansas City Chiefs
PK – Justin Tucker, Baltimore Ravens#
P – Jake Bailey, New England Patriots
KR – Cordarrelle Patterson, Chicago Bears*
PR – Gunner Olszewski, New England Patriots
ST – George Odum, Indianapolis Colts