Don't rule out Mason being #2 QB
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06-15-2018, 02:54 PM

Quote:Don't rule out Mason Rudolph as the Steelers' backup QB

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
JUN 14, 2018

Mike Tomlin traditionally declines to offer opinions about his rookies after these spring sessions without pads, and he did not do so after they concluded Thursday.

It does not mean others watching Steelers practices since the rookie minicamp in May held back their own thoughts, and among the most significant is this:

Quarterback Mason Rudolph lived up to their expectations and then some. He has performed better as a rookie than any other quarterback they’ve drafted since Ben Roethlisberger, and they think he can compete in training camp to become his backup.

Rudolph noted that he ran the two-minute drill for the first time Thursday during the team’s final minicamp practice as Roethlisberger and most of the first unit on offense did not practice. He also wore the headset receiver to take play-calls from coordinator Randy Fichtner for the first time.

“It’s a lot better, it’s easier,” Rudolph said of the helmet communication system they do not have in college. “You don’t have to go anywhere, you don’t have to look to the sideline , you get it right there in your ear and you call it out.”

If Rudolph does become No. 2 entering the regular season, it does not necessarily mean Landry Jones will leave. The Steelers are not cap-strapped to where his $1.9 million salary taxes them.

They also had veteran quarterbacks as No. 3 in the past, such as 2012 when Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch were on the roster as Roethlisberger’s two backups.

Rudolph showed them enough this spring that few in the organization will be surprised if he earns the No. 2 job this year.

“Mason’s been everything we’ve asked, for sure,” Fichtner said. “Throws, obviously, a nice ball. The physical things are all there. Obviously mentally and learning is an acquired taste; that’s going to come through reps, physical reps, in-helmet perspectives, things that you’re not going to get and it’s not going to happen overnight.”

Rudolph pronounced his first pro spring a good one.

“I was really happy. I think I had a great minicamp.”

He does not lack the confidence needed for the position, such as how he commanded the huddle with the Steelers.

“I’ve had that since day one. That’s not an issue with me. You can command the huddle when you know what you’re doing.”

As with all their rookies, Rudolph will continue his workouts at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex through next Wednesday, then head home to South Carolina to work out.

“I’m going to stay in my own world. I’ll blow up the offensive staff’s cell phones. Hopefully they pick up while they’re on vacation.”

• Another rookie who made a big impression this spring is hybrid halfback Jaylen Samuels, aka Le’Veon Bell Jr. The Steelers drafted him in the fifth round from North Carolina State, where he did all the things Bell does for the Steelers — halfback, split wide, wildcat quarterback, even H-back.

And the coaches have him doing all the things this spring to mimic Bell, and doing many of them well.

“When you get a chance to script a practice ... what you do is you pop in No. 38 and take a look at N.C. State and say what can he do that’s like 26?” Fichtner said. “And you say, wow, OK, he can do that, he might not be able to do that, he’s not ready for that, we’ll be able to do that. So you can put him in those positions to be able to do that.”

New receivers coach Darryl Drake was equally as impressed with Samuels’ ability to play that position.

“He’s been mostly with the running backs,” Drake said. “He’s a hybrid guy who can move around and do some things. I like his skill set. He has an ability to run good routes, body positioning, catching the ball. There is a definite fit. There is a definite place for him.

“Randy does a great job of getting those guys in the position they need to be in. He’s done some great things out here. It’s something we want to push and get him going fast because he has a tremendous amount of ability.”

At 6-feet, 225 pounds, Samuels is listed at the same weight as Bell and is one inch shorter, although they’d like him to lose a few pounds. If the Steelers and Bell do not reach a contract agreement by July 16, he has no alternative but to play under the franchise tag, as he did last season. And, as he did last season, Bell likely won’t sign that one-year deal before Labor Day.

That would give Jaylen Samuels another 5½ weeks to assume the Le’Veon Bell role.


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