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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.


Rooney: Steelers Plan to Return to St. Vincent for 2021 Training Camp



There is plenty that remains up in the air about the 2021 NFL offseason, but the Pittsburgh Steelers still have plans to resume one of their enduring traditions that was broken by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

The Steelers were forced to forgo their trip to the campus of St. Vincent College near Latrobe, Pennsylvania in 2020 due to the NFL’s rules regarding keeping players isolated during the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s unclear how much those restrictions will change for the NFL teams this summer, but as things stand as of today, the Steelers are still making plans to return to the Laurel Highlands for the team’s annual training camp this summer.

“As we sit here today, our plan is to have training camp in Latrobe,” team president Art Rooney II said to on Friday. “We still have a ways to go to get there, but I think there’s a pretty good chance that’s going to be able to happen. We’re still hopeful we’re going to have some form of offseason program, and it’s probably not going to start on time but I think it’s important particularly for the young players that we get back to having an offseason program and then a full training camp and preseason games. I think we need to have that to help the young players continue to develop.”

Displaced from their usual bucolic summer home and from UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on the South Side due to capacity limitations, the Steelers spent the 2020 training camp and preseason at Heinz Field.

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NFL Network Analysts Call Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger 3rd-Best in AFC North



It appears that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is likely to return to the Pittsburgh Steelers, with both Roethlisberger’s agent and team president Art Rooney II making public statements that each party desires a return for 2021 this week.

But how much of a difference-maker will Roethlisberger be? That depends on his level of play this coming season.

NFL Network analysts and former NFL players Willie McGinest and LaDainian Tomlinson each ranked the quarterbacks of the AFC North and both said they think Roethlisberger is the third-best quarterback in the division, behind Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson and Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield.

“I’m not taking anything away from Ben,” McGinest said. “Lamar Jackson is special and I put Baker in front of Ben because of what we’ve seen in the progression of Baker the last couple of years. … I see him getting better and Ben fighting father time, with the skills diminishing just a little bit.”

“It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish,” Tomlinson said. “We’ve seen, in spurts, Big Ben play well. He started out hot. But he didn’t finish so well. … He looked old and beat up toward the end of the season. I’m just not sure that improves.”

Statistically, Roethlisberger finished first amongst the four AFC North passers in completion percentage, but he was fourth in yards per attempt and third in passer rating and QBR. Pro Football Focus ranked Roethlisberger last of the division’s four starters in 2020.

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NFL Head Coach: Bud Dupree’s Injury Cause for Uncertainty Entering Free Agency



Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Bud Dupree is set to hit free agency in a matter of weeks, but one head coach believes he could be waiting a while to sign.

Speaking with FanSided’s Matt Lombardo, an NFL head coach, speaking anonymously, said Dupree’s season-ending knee injury has made his free agency outlook uncertain.

“Bud Dupree is someone that is a real question mark for me,” the head coach told FanSided. “If he was healthy, he’s easily the top pass-rusher hitting the open market, and teams would pay a king’s ransom to sign him. But, with him coming off a torn ACL, what exactly are you committing to? Does he want to go back to Pittsburgh? Who knows, but he’s someone that I think will wind up having to wait a while to sign.”

Lombardo compares Dupree’s situation to Tennessee Titans defensive end Jadeveon Clowney last offseason.

While he had not suffered a significant injury the season prior with the Houston Texans and Seattle Seahawks, Clowney signed with Tennessee on just a one-year, $12-million deal. He had been expected to be paid handsomely on a lengthier contract, which obviously did not come to fruition.

Clowney was virtually invisible for the Titans, recording no sacks in eight games before being placed on injured reserve in November.

Due to his torn ACL, Dupree could find himself having to settle on a cheaper, one-year “prove it” deal as well. Ideally he would then cash in during the 2022 free agency period is all goes as planned.

Dupree was having another stellar season before tearing his ACL in the Steelers’ Week 12 win over the Baltimore Ravens. He had eight sacks, eight tackles for loss, 15 quarterback hits and a pair of forced fumbles through eleven games.

After playing last season under the franchise tag, which paid Dupree $15.828 million, the Steelers’ dire salary cap situation will most likely prevent them from bringing him back. Still, the brass of the organization has expressed their desire to do so if circumstances were different.

While the knee injury remains a concern, Dupree shared he was ahead of schedule in his recovery when he joined NFL Network’s Good Morning Football late last month.

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