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Pitt Coach Pat Narduzzi on Mason Rudolph: ‘People are Going to Be Shocked’

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PITTSBURH — Pitt has faced its fair share of top quarterbacks since Pat Narduzzi took over in 2015.

The Panthers have faced Deshaun Watson and Trevor Lawrence at Clemson, Daniel Jones at Duke, Lamar Jackson at Louisville and Mitchell Trubisky at North Carolina, just to name a few.

But perhaps the star collegiate quarterback the Panthers had the most trouble with over the years was former Oklahoma State passer Mason Rudolph. Pitt faced Rudolph and the Cowboys in a two-game series in 2016 in Stillwater, Oklahoma and at Heinz Field in 2017.

In 2016 Rudolph threw for 540 yards and two touchdowns in a 45-38 win against the Panthers, including a 91-yard touchdown to current Steelers wide receiver,James Washington. A year later, Rudolph led the No. 9 Cowboys to a 59-21 win at Heinz Field. Rudolph threw for 497 yards on 23-32 and five touchdowns.

Two years later, Rudolph will be trying to put up those kinds of numbers in his first NFL start for the Steelers on Sunday in San Francisco.

Narduzzi was impressed with Rudolph during his college days and said he has no doubts that he will continue to improve while with the Steelers.

“There’s a reason he’s in the NFL,” Narduzzi said. “He was spectacular at Oklahoma State. He knows how to throw the ball and he doesn’t get flustered with pressure. … I’m glad I don’t have to play him tomorrow.”

With Narduzzi having first-hand experience of seeing Rudolph in action and being able to watch the way he takes command of an offense, he believes that he will fit in well with the way the Steelers want to do things.

“Mason Rudolph isn’t going to have any problems,” Narduzzi said. “[Rudolph] has a chance to go in and take over. Everybody on that team is playing for him and he’ll have a lot of support behind him.”

When talking about who are the best quarterbacks that Narduzzi has faced at Pitt. He put Rudolph right at the top, with former UNC quarterback Trubisky. Both of whom probably still give Pitt fans nightmares.

Rudolph is replacing a franchise icon in Ben Roethlisberger, and many have questioned the Steelers’ ability to compete with the second-year passer at the helm. But Narduzzi is definitely a believer.

“I think a lot of people are going to be shocked,” he said.

Alan Saunders contributed reporting to this story.

Steelers

Center J.C. Hassenauer Officially Signs with Steelers

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Center J.C. Hassenauer has officially signed his new one-year deal with the Steelers.

This deal was initially reported last week and confirmed by Hassenauer’s agent, but has now been announced by the Steelers.

An exclusive right free agent, Hassenauer was almost a lock to return to Pittsburgh in 2021. His new deal with the Steelers is worth $780,000.

Hassenauer proved a vital piece along the Steelers’ offensive line a season ago, seeing action in 15 games and making four starts. He was on the field for 23% of the team’s offensive stats, while also appearing on 50 special teams plays.

Prior to Pittsburgh, Hassenauer signed with the Atlanta Falcons as an undrafted free agent in 2018, spending the first seven weeks of the season on their practice squad.

He played for the Birmingham Iron of the Alliance of American Football in 2019.

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Steelers

Mic Drop: JuJu Smith-Schuster’s Free Agency is About Business, Not Personal

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Ever since the Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger decided the future Hall of Fame quarterback will return for the 2021 season with a restructured contract, the attention has shifted to free agent wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. On this episode of Mic Drop on Pittsburgh Sports Live, host Mike Asti explains why fans need to learn that not every JuJu take is a personal attack and why it’s best for the Steelers business if the franchise and the 24-year-old receiver part ways.

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Steelers Scout Mark Bruener Shares Insight into Unique Draft Process

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The COVID-19 pandemic has altered many aspects of the NFL landscape, especially the scouting leading up to the NFL Draft, making an already unique, tedious process even more challenging.

Pittsburgh Steelers college scout Mark Bruener joined The Standard, the club’s behind-the-scenes web series, and provided some insight into the past year’s unprecedented scouting process.

The pandemic has presented Bruener with his fair share of challenges, but he has not allowed those circumstances to become excuses.

“My first approach was is I’m not going to make an excuse for the situation that I’m in,” Bruener said. “I’m going to figure out a way to do my job to the best of my ability and know that Kevin (Colbert) is not going to tolerate any excuses. And I needed to get my job done.”

Much like every aspect of our life over the past year, Bruener has had to resort to virtual discussions with coaches, as he was largely barred from scouting and meeting players at facilities.

“The ability for us to make contact with the schools, the individual coaches, all had to be done via Zoom,” Bruener said. “There was no personal interaction that we normally would get. And then you would follow up individually with the coaches to gain the information that you needed.”

Without those in-person evaluations, Bruener has had to watch on film more than ever before to ensure his assessments are accurate.

“But the bulk of my fall was spent in my office, watching film on my computer,” he said. “Instead of just watching three games on an athlete in particular to try to bring the evaluation, I tend to maybe watch five or six games, if that’s available. And because I can’t see that live look in some aspects.”

That being said, the virtually, at-home conditions have granted Bruener more flexibility in his scouting process than ever before.

“If you’re at a school, you have to get to the next school the next day. So you have to make sure that you get all that work done that day,” Bruener said. “Whereas now being home, you’re a little more flexible. So if you’re not able to finish that third game or fourth game by two o’clock, then you can get to it later on that evening.”

Bruener, who resides in Washington state, was able to attend a few games in person last college football season, but admits the atmosphere was bizarre at times.

“I went to a handful of games here in Seattle and in Oregon that I was allowed to attend, but it was so eerie Andy weird because there wasn’t any fans there.”

Selected in the first round of the 1995 NFL Draft out of Washington, Bruener played 14 seasons at tight end. He spent the first nine seasons of his career in Pittsburgh, catching 137 passes for 1,197 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Bruener began scouting for the Steelers organization in 2018.

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