PITTSBURGH — One of the top storylines of Steelers training camp yet to be resolved as the team closes up shop at St. Vincent College and returns to Pittsburgh is the status of the backup quarterback battle.
Third-year pro Josh Dobbs and second-year passer Mason Rudolph have each started one game and each gotten a chance at performing in at least one two-minute drill while working mostly with first-team players in the first half.
Rudolph got the start on Sunday, and went 10 of 15 for 77 yards after converting 5 of 8 for 91 yards in the preseason opener. That gives him a 65.2 completion percentage and a 7.3 yards per attempt average.
Over two games, Dobbs is 11 of 19 for 180 yards — a 57.9 completion percentage and a 9.5 yards per attempt average. Dobbs also has 49 rushing yards.
Statistically, it doesn’t seem like there has been a great deal of separation between the two passers, something that head coach Mike Tomlin emphasized on Saturday night.
“Not as we stand here right now,” he said brusquely, when asked if Rudolph had made any separation.
While Tomlin’s opinion is the only one (along with his subordinate coaches) that actually matters, there are more ways to evaluate quarterback play than just passing statistics. There have been two very important characteristics that Rudolph has show when he’s been in the game that Dobbs has not so far: the ability to lead long scoring drives, and the ability to hold onto the football.
With Dobbs in the game as the starter against Tampa Bay, he led two drives with the first-team offense. The first stalled after five plays and a punt. The second went 17 plays but came away with just a field goal. Rudolph came into the game and led two scoring drives in the final 5:33 of the half, driving 64 yards on seven plays and finding James Washington for a touchdown. A three-and-out after a turnover left the Steelers in field goal range for another score.
Against Kansas City, Rudolph’s offense punted three times and fumbled once (Donte Moncrief) in the first quarter, but capitalized on a long scoring drive (14 plays, 89 yards) in the second quarter that saw Rudolph connect with Washington for 32 yards on a 3rd and 11 and with Xavier Grimble for 13 yards on another 3rd and 11.
Fittingly, Dobbs got the same two scenarios that Rudolph had the week before: one regular two-minute offense drive and a second after a turnover. Dobbs’ first drive got off to a strong start with a 40-yard completion to Washington but stalled after three straight incompletions followed a 2nd a 5.
When the Steelers got the ball back after a Tuzar Skipper fumble recovery, Dobbs threw an interception from the 6-yard line.
So through two games, when running with the first teamers, Rudolph has led his units to two touchdowns and a field goal. Dobbs has had no scoring drives and committed one turnover. It’s a small sample, one that will roughly double by the time the preseason ends, but so far, Rudolph has been the better leader of the offense, if not the better passer.
Packers Could Pass Steelers in All-Time Playoff Wins in NFC Championship Game
The Green Bay Packers can pass the Pittsburgh Steelers in the NFL record books with a win in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday.
The Packers and Steelers are currently tied with 36 all-time NFL playoff wins, the second-most behind the New England Patriots, who have 37.
The Packers will be playing the man responsible for most of those wins in New England, now-Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady.
Both the Packers and Patriots have a higher postseason winning percentage than the Steelers, with New England holding a 37-21 record and Green Bay 36-23, while Pittsburgh is 26-26 after a Wild Card Round loss to Cleveland this month.
None of the other top five teams, including Dallas (35-28) and San Francisco (32-30) are still alive this year. Tampa Bay has just eight playoff wins in its history, the sixth-fewest in league history.
The Buffalo Bills (16-17) and Kansas City Chiefs (14-19) are 19th and 20th in playoff wins entering their AFC Championship Game showdown on Saturday.
Mike Tomlin: Hall of Fame Class of 2021 Incomplete without Steelers Scout Bill Nunn
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin doesn’t get a vote when it comes to who enters the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but he made his opinions known on who he thinks should be a part of the Hall’s Class of 2021, making a public plea on Monday for former Steelers scout Bill Nunn to be included.
“There is no way the Class of 2021 can be complete without the legend, Bill Nunn, being a part of it,” Tomlin wrote.
Nunn, who died in 2014, was selected as the lone finalist recommended by the nine-member contributor committee in August. He, senior committee finalist Drew Pearson, coaches committee finalist Tom Flores and 15 modern-era finalists, including former Steelers guard Alan Faneca, will all be on the ballot when the voters meet before the Super Bowl.
Nunn, a Homewood native and Westinghouse alum, was a key figure in the Steelers’ success in the 1970s and helped revolutionize the scouting process for players at historically black colleges and universities, that had been previously underrepresented in the NFL after having worked as a sportswriter with the Pittsburgh Courier.
“Bill’s contributions to the Steelers were extraordinary over the 46 years he was part of the organization,” Steelers president Art Rooney II said in a press release in August. “He was a special person that was a close friend and mentor before his passing in 2014. His lessons and stories are still evident in our everyday work.
“I look forward to hopefully celebrating his induction next year at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His legacy and career deserve to be recognized with the greatest individual honor in football, and we are excited he was chosen by the contributor committee as a finalist.”
Tomlin also wished luck to three players that he coached: former Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive backs Ronde Barber and John Lynch and Faneca.
Want to wish the absolute best of luck to three deserving @ProFootballHOF finalists, Ronde Barber, Alan Faneca and John Lynch, all who I have had the honor to work with.
And there is no way the Class of 2021 can be complete without the legend, Bill Nunn, being a part of it.
— Mike Tomlin (@CoachTomlin) January 18, 2021
Steelers Minkah Fitzpatrick, T.J. Watt Named to PFWA All-NFL Team
For the second season in a row, Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and outside linebacker T.J. Watt have been named to the Pro Football Writers of American All-AFC and All-NFL teams for the second consecutive season.
Fitzpatrick was also named an Associated Press All-Pro this season for the second straight year. In 2020, Fitzpatrick had 79 total tackles, eleven passes defended and a team-high four interceptions, one of which he returned for a 37-yard touchdown.
The other All-NFL and All-AFC safety was Tyrann Mathieu of the Kansas City Chiefs.
Watt was also named a first-team AP All-Pro after leading the NFL in sacks, tackles for loss and quarterback hits. His 15 sacks were one off a franchise record and he racked them up while playing in only 15 games.
Watt was named the FOX Sports NFL Defensive Player of the Year and remains the favorite to win the prestigious AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year award at the postseason NFL Honors banquet.
Watt was also named the Steelers’ team MVP for the second straight season after finishing with 53 tackles, 26 tackles for loss, 41 quarterbacks hits, two forced fumbles and an interception this season.
The other All-NFL outside linebacker was Khalil Mack of the Chicago Bears, while Bradley Chubb of the Cleveland Browns was the other All-AFC outside linebacker.
Both players were also selected to the 2021 NFL Pro Bowl team. The Pro Bowl will not be played. Instead, the Pro Bowl events will be led virtually and the game will be streamed via Madden NFL 21.
Only the Steelers and Los Angeles Rams had two All-NFL players on defense, tackle Aaron Donald and cornerback Jalen Ramsey. The Green Bay Packers had the most players selected with three, quarterback Aaron Rodgers, tackle David Bakhitiari and wide receiver Davante Adams.
Full All-NFL team:
2020 PFWA ALL-NFL TEAM
QB – Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
RB – Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings; Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans*
WR – Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers; Stefon Diggs, Buffalo Bills
TE – Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs
C – Corey Linsley, Green Bay Packers
G – Joel Bitonio, Cleveland Browns; Quenton Nelson, Indianapolis Colts#
T – David Bakhtiari, Green Bay Packers; Jack Conklin, Cleveland Browns
DE – Myles Garrett, Cleveland Browns; Trey Hendrickson, New Orleans Saints
DT – DeForest Buckner, Indianapolis Colts; Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams^
OLB – Khalil Mack, Chicago Bears; T.J. Watt, Pittsburgh Steelers*
MLB – Fred Warner, San Francisco 49ers
CB – Xavien Howard, Miami Dolphins; Jalen Ramsey, Los Angeles Rams
S – Minkah Fitzpatrick, Pittsburgh Steelers*; Tyrann Mathieu, Kansas City Chiefs
PK – Justin Tucker, Baltimore Ravens#
P – Jake Bailey, New England Patriots
KR – Cordarrelle Patterson, Chicago Bears*
PR – Gunner Olszewski, New England Patriots
ST – George Odum, Indianapolis Colts