Mike Tomlin has yet to make it official, and it should certainly not come as a surprise, but it appears that second-year quarterback Mason Rudolph won the preseason battle to be the primary backup to starter Ben Roethlisberger.
ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported on Friday that Rudolph had secured the gig, and it should have been obvious to anyone that watched the Steelers’ four preseason games who the more-effective passer was.
Dobbs finished the preseason 18 of 33 (54.4%) for 280 yards (8.5 yards per attempt), no touchdowns and two interceptions for a 57.6 passer rating.
Rudolph was 28 of 43 (65.1%) for 368 yards (8.6 yards per attempt), four touchdowns and one interception for a 113.3 passer rating.
That should just about do it, but not only was Rudolph the more effective passer, the offense ran better when he was on the field. Despite making two starts to Rudolph’s one, Dobbs never led a touchdown drive this preseason.
In fact, it could be argued that fourth-string quarterback Devlin Hodges had a better preseason than Dobbs did. Playing against lesser competition, but also throwing to lesser receivers, Hodges was 20 of 38 (52.6%) for 190 yards (5.0 yards per attempt), two touchdown and one interception for a 73.4 passer rating.
That led to some fans thinking Hodges had a chance to make the team, but general manager Kevin Colbert cleared that up even before the preseason finale, saying the team has three NFL caliber quarterbacks on the roster.
There is always the possibility of a surprise move or trade, but as the Steelers enter the regular season, it seems they’ve settled on a three-deep at quarterback.
JuJu Smith-Schuster Asks Fans to Give him Space
JuJu Smith-Schuster is experiencing the negative side effect of living so much of his personal life in the public eye. The Steelers receiver, who is looking for a new NFL contract, took to Instagram to ask fans to leave him alone.
This stems from allegations that fans are showing up to his family home in California while he is there. Obviously, fans have no right to show up unwelcome anywhere to stalk an an athlete or celebrity, but this is just another example of the polarization of Smith-Schuster’s career. While he’s received much criticism, most notably this past season, for his sometimes over-the-top behavior and seemingly prioritizing his brand at all times, he also has many avid supporters who would stop at nothing to defend one of their favorite players.
Smith-Schuster is set to be a free agent in March for the first time in his professional career. If the Steelers should try to bring back the receiver has become a hot debate among Pittsburgh fans, so much so Smith-Schuster himself addressed the situation during a live Twitch sessions with fans.
Even Smith-Schuster’s play on the field is often up for debate. He totaled 97 receptions, but for only 831 yards with an average of just 8.6 yards per catch, which is significantly lower than his average from past seasons, including 15.8 his rookie year and 13.1 in 2019.
When it comes to JuJu Smith-Schuster, it’s always best to just stay tuned.
Steelers’ Vance McDonald Reflects on Stiff Arm Moment, Relationship with Ben Roethlisberger
Steelers tight end Vance McDonald spoke to the media after officially announcing his retirement from the NFL. McDonald responded to a question about the play he’s most synonymous with by saying he embraces the famous stiff arm moment. He also detailed his interaction with Ben Roethlisberger when he told his quarterback he was planning to retire.
Steelers TE Kevin Rader Aced Week 17 Audition, More Coming in 2021?
The Steelers have an opening in their tight ends room, as four-year starter Vance McDonald retired on Friday.
That leaves Eric Ebron as the team’s projected starter for 2021, and that won’t be a big change, as Ebron out-snapped McDonald and started nine games to McDonald’s 12. Without another veteran option, it’s likely the Steelers will use fewer two-tight end sets, but the issue of backups will need to be addressed.
Michigan product and former fifth-round pick Zach Gentry has yet to be a factor through two seasons and missed most of 2020 with an injury, but as he’s under contract and the team is facing a salary cup crunch, he seems likely to hold onto that job.
The Steelers have options for a third tight end, securing the services of Dax Raymond and Charles Jones on reserve/future contracts for the 2021 season on Thursday. But the man that seems most likely to step up into that role is third-year pro Kevin Rader.
Rader, a Pine-Richland and Youngstown State alum spent his second season with the Steelers in 2020, but got his first taste of action in Week 17 at Cleveland with the Steelers choosing to rest starters.
He made the most of the opportunity, particularly on special teams, where he played in nearly half of the team’s snaps, made three tackles and drew praise from head coach Mike Tomlin.
“Guys like Kevin Rader had an opportunity to step up and play,” Tomlin said. “I think he had three tackles on kickoff. For an offensive player to have that type of contribution in net, in a coverage unit I think was impressive. That’s good for him. That’s good for us as we move forward.”
Rader is also on a reserve/future contract, with no guaranteed money for 2021, but if he can continue to show the ability to contribute on special teams and help as a blocker, where McDonald excelled and Ebron does not, it seems that he can certainly carve himself out a role in Pittsburgh in 2021.