The Pittsburgh Steelers will play their second preseason game of 2019 Saturday night at Heinz Field and as expected, starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will sit that contest out. Instead, second-year quarterback Mason Rudolph will start Saturday night against the Kansas City Chiefs, according to head coach Mike Tomlin Thursday morning.
“The quarterback rotation, we’ll start Mason [Rudolph],” Tomlin said Thursday morning. “We’ll also play Josh [Dobbs] and we have every intention of playing [Devlin] Hodges. We’ll see how all of that unfolds. Obviously in-game things dictate some of that.”
Rudolph, who was drafted by the Steelers in the third-round in 2018 out of Oklahoma State, had a very nice showing in the team’s preseason opener this past Friday night against the Tampa Buccaneers. In that game he completed 5 of his 8 total pass attempts for 91 yards with 2 touchdowns and no interceptions.
Tomlin was asked after announcing that Rudolph will start against the Chiefs if he’s seen last year’s first of two third-round draft picks be more aggressive this year than he was as a rookie in 2018.
“I have and I know that that is his intentions,” Tomlin said. “I think one of the things that really attracted us to him out of Stillwater was that level of aggression, the way that he attacked defenses vertically and threw the ball. I know that that’s his style, that’s his demeanor and it’s showing more and more consistently.”
Third-year quarterback Joshua Dobbs, who started the Steelers 2019 preseason opener against the Buccaneers, will relieve Rudolph at some point against the Chiefs, according to Tomlin. Dobbs completed 5 of his 8 total pass attempts against the Buccaneers for 85 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions.
As for Hodges, like Rudolph and Dobbs in the preseason opener, he also represented himself well. The Steelers fourth-string quarterback completed 8 of his 14 total pass attempts for 79 yards and a touchdown against the Buccaneers. A few of those incompleted passes were a result of drops.
Tomlin was also asked on Thursday that when it comes to evaluating the quarterback depth chart this time of the offseason if a lot more weight is given to play at that position in preseason games versus play on the practice field.
“It’s just what I mentioned earlier regarding everyone,” Tomlin said. “They’re being evaluated with everything that they do, but you acknowledge the in-stadium play is weighted a little bit differently because it’s not football-like. The situations aren’t scripted. It’s football, it’s fluid. Intellect and the ability to adapt and understand the ever-changing situations are part of the evaluation. That’s why in-stadium action is weighted more heavily and appropriately so.”
While Roethlisberger won’t play Saturday night against the Chiefs, a few other starters that sat out the preseason opener might, according to Tomlin. Tomlin, however, wouldn’t name any players in regard to that topic. The team also enters their final training camp practice of 2019 with a list of players currently dealing with injuries. As usual, Tomlin said Thursday that he’s not ready to rule any player out for Saturday night.
“We have a number of guys working their way back from injury,” Tomlin said. “We have a number of guys, you know, partially available and things due to injury. We won’t make any determinations about participation at this time. In the preseason this time of year we’ll always leave the light on and the door ajar in an effort to be inclusive, to give everybody an opportunity to play in-game, because we realize that work that happens in-stadium is weighted a little bit differently than some of the stuff that happens out here.”
While Tomlin didn’t rule any players out for Saturday night, it’s probably likely that center Maurkice Pouncey, guard David DeCastro, cornerback Joe Haden and inside linebacker Vince Williams will sit out the contest. As for rookie inside linebacker Devin Bush and rookie tight end Zach Gentry, Tomlin didn’t provide any updates Thursday on their statuses. Both players sat out Wednesday’s training camp practice with unknown injuries that were needing further evaluation, according to Tomlin.