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Open Mike: Tomlin Elaborates on QBs, Kickers Ahead of First Preseason Game

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UNITY TWP, Pa. – As Ben Roethlisberger rests, Josh Dobbs will start Friday night when the Steelers take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to open the preseason, Mike Tomlin confirmed Wednesday during his first preseason press conference.

Dobbs will start in place of Roethlisberger, while Mason Rudolph, who has been battling with Dobbs for the No. 2 quarterback position, is also expected to play a significant amount of time.

“We’ll continue to harden up some of our rotations in terms of who’s playing with and in what groups,” said Tomlin. “We’re working some two-minute football, getting the quarterbacks that could potentially be in the game, ready.”

Tomlin would not commit to playing undrafted rookie quarterback Devlin Hodges, but did offer some praise for the former FCS star.

“The moments out here haven’t been too big for him,” he said. “Obviously, the confines of a stadium are different. We’d like to get him some play, and we’ll see how the flow of the game goes. We’re working with the intention of doing that, but sometimes the game unfolds differently once you get inside stadiums.

“Those are the intentions. He’s been deserving of the opportunity. He’ll get it this weekend or the next.”

Speaking of position battles, Tomlin also elaborated on the Steelers’ plan for their placekicking situation. Both incumbents – Chris Boswell and Jordan Berry – will be sharing the load Friday night.

The training camp kicking competition between Boswell and rookie Matthew Wright will continue into Friday, as Tomlin confirmed the pair will alternate placekicking duties against Tampa with equal opportunity to pull ahead in the race.

Berry will split punts with newcomer Ian Berryman, as well.

Boswell is coming off the worst season of his career in 2018, where he missed on 12 attempts – five of which were PATs – and ended with a 65% completion rate. He has been better in camp, but will need to adjust to the tricky kicking confines of Heinz Field.

“He has been solid, but we haven’t done anything yet,” said Tomlin. “We’re stepping into the stadium for the first time. That’s exciting. We’ve put him into some situations out here, but we’re just beginning to unfold the storyline of the consistency there, not only for him but for all of those guys.”

Steelers

Ryan Shazier Starts Foundation for Spinal Cord Injuries

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Former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier has started a foundation to help individuals with spinal cord injuries.

The Ryan Shazier Fund for Spinal Rehabilitation will “provide support, resources and funding to those with spinal cord injuries and their caregivers.”

“My team and I have been working behind the scenes to find ways to continue to push forward progress for the spinal cord community,” Shazier said on Twitter Tuesday. “One step at a time we will change how people view spinal injuries.”

Shazier’s promising NFL career ended prematurely three years ago when he suffered his own spinal injury against the Cincinnati Bengals in 2017. He officially announced his retirement from football earlier this year, but has made tremendous strides in his recovery.

Selected in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft out of Ohio State, Shazier finished his career with 299 total tackles, 24 tackles-for-loss, seven sacks, seven forced fumbles and seven interceptions. He was twice selected to the Pro Bowl.

Former Steelers coaches and teammates shared their congratulations to Shazier on the start of his non-profit Tuesday, including head coach Mike Tomlin and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

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Steelers Can Become First to Clinch a Playoff Berth This Week

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The Steelers can become the first NFL team to clinch a playoff berth for the 2020 season on Thursday, if they’re able to beat the Baltimore Ravens and get a little bit of help.

If the Steelers beat Baltimore at Heinz Field on Thursday night to improve to 11-0 on the season, and both the Las Vegas Raiders and Miami Dolphins lose, or one loses and one ties, the Steelers will have wrapped up a 2020 NFL postseason berth.


Though the Steelers are playing on Thanksgiving night, they will have to wait until the weekend to find out if they’ve earned their playoff berth. The Raiders will visit the Atlanta Falcons this week and the Dolphins will play at the New York Jets. Both of those games are scheduled for 1 p.m. kickoffs on Sunday.

The 10-0 Steelers are in first place in the AFC North, three games ahead of the 7-3 Cleveland Browns, so they can’t yet clinch a division title at this point, just a Wild Card berth.

The earliest the Steelers could clinch a divisional title will come in Week 14.

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Chase Claypool’s Physical Dominance Going Beyond Catches, Yards and Scores

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Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool is big, that much is easy enough to tell by looking at him.

At 6-foot-4 and 238 pounds, he’s one of the physically largest receivers in the NFL, even as a rookie. He’s also fast, as he proved at the NFL and has proven over and over again throughout his rookie season, as he’s raced out to 35 catches for 500 yards and eight touchdowns over his first 10 games.

Big and fast is a pretty good combination for a wide receiver and it’s made Claypool quite a handful for opposing cornerbacks, despite his lack of experience in the league.

When corners are given a tasks that might be a bit more than they’re capable of handling physically, their first instinct might be to grab a handful of jersey.

Against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Claypool was twice a victim of defensive pass interference penalties, once for 29 yards and another for 21 that can essentially be added  to the 51 in receiving that he brought in.

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said after the game that he’ll take those penalty flags and the automatic first downs that come with them, but he also wants the physically dominant Claypool to run through those fouls and find some touchdowns.

“He says that after every PI,” Claypool said on Monday. “It definitely makes sense and definitely, it’s something that I’m trying to work on, just getting through some some of those PI calls, but some of them, as you could see from yesterday’s game, you just can’t fight through and tackle sometimes. I’m happy to know that he can throw it up and it’s either a catch or a PI.”

While Claypool’s adjustment to the NFL has seemingly been an easy one, there’s a fine line to walk for a rookie when it comes to earning those calls. If Claypool doesn’t sell it at all in all-out attempt to catch the ball, he might not get either the pass or the flag. But he’s not at a point in his career where he can demand a call be made, either.

“I definitely watch some of these games and you know, I see these guys get like PI’d and if the flag, doesn’t come out … no specific receiver, but like a Pro Bowl receiver and they just like throw their hands up, they can get a call right there,” Claypool explained. “So I’m gonna try that. Probably not this year but maybe down the road there a little bit.”

That day might come sooner than he thinks if he continues the torrid pace he’s set so far. Claypool is the first rookie wide receiver since the NFL-AFL merger to score 10 touchdowns in his first 10 games, a level of success that has surprised even him.

“This much, for sure,” Claypool said. “You never really are able to picture something like this. But I expected to have success in my career just based off like training and kind of how I felt about myself and my preparation. But definitely thought the transition would have been a little bit longer.”

In that aspect, the one thing that maybe has been less surprising has been his ability to draw penalties. After all, that’s mostly about size and speed, and it was clear even before he entered the league that he had a rare combination in those areas.

“Just watching game film and, and looking at corners in the league and their measurables, I knew I was gonna measure up physically,” he said. “If there’s a corner bigger than me, then damn.”

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