Rudolph to get chance to state his case


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Mason Rudolph (2) -- MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

LATROBE, Pa. -- The battle for the Steelers' backup quarterback job will take another step forward Saturday night when the team hosts the Chiefs in its second preseason game.

Second-year QB Mason Rudolph will get the start after relieving incumbent No. 2, Josh Dobbs, in the preseason opener last week against the Buccaneers.

It's all part of the team's plan to give both young quarterbacks a shot at being the backup to starter Ben Roethlisberger, who will not play again this week.

Rudolph, a third-round pick in 2018 out of Oklahoma State, has been pushing Dobbs hard throughout training camp. And he outplayed Dobbs in the opener, leading the team to a pair of touchdowns.

But Dobbs, a third-year player, also will get an opportunity to show he can still be the No. 2 because the coaching staff weights in-game play more heavily than it does practice sessions.

"They’re being evaluated with everything they do, but you acknowledge that in-the-stadium is evaluated a little bit differently because it’s (more) football-like," Mike Tomlin said Thursday as the Steelers prepared to wrap up their final day of training camp practice at Saint Vincent College.

"The situations aren’t scripted. It’s football. It’s fluid. Intellect and the ability to adapt to the ever-changing situations are part of the equation. That’s why in-stadium action is weighted a little more heavily, and appropriately so."

Rudolph completed 5 of 8 passes for 94 yards and two touchdowns against the Bucs, working mostly against second-team players. Dobbs also was 5 of 8, but for 85 yards and no scores. He did scramble twice for 44 yards in leading the Steelers to a field goal in the two possessions he lead.

"You want to play. And that’s the dynamic of the room," Dobbs said. "You go out there and compete on a day-to-day basis, work to improve and continue to run the offense and find ways to improve. You focus on what you did good at and try to get better on the things you didn’t. That’s what we’re trying to do."

Even though Dobbs played against many of Tampa Bay's starters and Rudolph against backups, Tomlin doesn't look all that hard at who the quarterbacks are playing against as much as he does how effective they are.

"I just know that quarterback play, if they’re doing their job and doing it at an acceptable level, they’re capable of moving their group," said Tomlin, adding he intends to get undrafted rookie Devlin Hodges some playing time, as well.

Tomlin did say he intends to play more starters in this game than he did in the opener, a 30-28 win in which 18 of the team's 22 presumed starters did not participate.

With time running out on training camp and the preseason games now ticking away, the sense of urgency begins to rise with each passing day.

Because of that, the team will be more cognizant not only of who plays Saturday and how much, but who they play with and against.

"We’re getting more deliberate in terms of where we put people and the situations we put people in and the groups that they’re running with," Tomlin said. "It’s been a good process. We came here to ready ourselves for the process and take 90 to 53. Some of those type of things, it’s time for them to take place."

The NFL changed the rule on cut downs to 53 players a few years ago. Instead of multiple rounds of cuts to get down to 53 players, they now all happen by the same date. That deadline is Aug. 31 this year, meaning players hoping to make the roster have just a couple of more weeks to make a case for themselves.

"Opportunities are starting to get scarce as we get to the conclusion of camp and continually step into stadiums," Tomlin said. "The sand is running through the hourglass. Guys are losing opportunities to state a case for themselves, so there’s a certain sense of urgency."

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