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Rudolph Feeling Poised Heading into Preseason



UNITY TWP, Pa. – Ben Roethlisberger won’t play much at all over the course of the Steelers’ four-game preseason schedule. That’s a fact. And on the other hand, Mason Rudolph will see the field a lot over the course of the next four weeks. That’s also a fact.

Will Rudolph supplant Josh Dobbs as Roethlisberger’s solidified backup come Week 1 when the Steelers take on the defending Super Bowl champions in Foxborough?

That’s still open for interpretation.

The second-year QB will begin his quest to prove he’s the man for the (backup) job beginning on Friday, when the Steelers begin the preseason by taking on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers under the lights at Heinz Field.

Rudolph and Dobbs are competing for the No. 2 quarterback spot in camp, but performing well in practice and performing well in games are entirely different stories. Both need to be blended together before one can earn the trust of Mike Tomlin and Randy Fichtner.

“I think it’s a combination,” Rudolph said. “You’ve got to be consistent, which I have been on the practice field, but also make plays and show the trust is there on the field of play. It’s just a complete, collective showing of skills. I’m excited to do that (in the preseason).”

Rudolph is on the right track. Through OTAs and 10 training camp practices, he’s slinging it better than the rookie quarterback who self-admittedly struggled to grasp the intricacies of reading defenses at the NFL level last season. In fact, Rudolph’s steepest competition back then wasn’t Dobbs – or anyone else for that matter. Instead, it was the man in the mirror.

“Last year, I was really competing with myself,” he said. “I couldn’t get out of my own way. I didn’t have a total understanding. I was a little hesitant, at times. I wasn’t as aggressive throwing the ball as I should’ve been. That comes with the territory.”

 Dobbs, who held the backup job over Rudolph last season, has flashed progression, as well. He’s visibly more comfortable behind center and increased his accuracy on short-to-medium range throws – one of his biggest knocks coming out college. And alike Rudolph, Dobbs isn’t necessarily focusing on the two-horse backup QB race over controlling what he can control.

“I try to compete against myself,” Dobbs said. “Whatever I did the day before, I try to improve on it, build on it. Always focus on one thing to improve on a day-to-day basis. That’s my biggest competition. Competing against yourself. Competing against complacency.”

Another quarterback to watch throughout the preseason will be Devlin Hodges. The undrafted rookie out of Samford (FCS) has impressed during camp, flashing poise in the pocket and a willingness to let it rip without hesitation. He has received ample opportunity alongside Rudolph and Dobbs in practice, and that won’t change once the bright lights turn on this weekend.

“He’s getting some opportunities, and he’s going to get some opportunities,” said Tomlin. “Every man here is a man who has a legitimate opportunity, particularly so when Ben is the quarterback because you know there’s going to be regularly scheduled days off and increased opportunity for others. We’re not taking (Hodges’) presence for granted, and neither is he.”

Tomlin confirmed on Wednesday that Dobbs will start against the Buccaneers, followed by Rudolph.


Ryan Shazier Starts Foundation for Spinal Cord Injuries



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



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



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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