Steelers Bench QB Mason Rudolph After Rough Half at Bengals

Mason Rudolph Benched Week 12

Getty Mason Rudolph #2 of the Pittsburgh Steelers warms up before the start of the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on November 24, 2019 in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Mason Rudolph’s day didn’t start the greatest for the Pittsburgh Steelers with just 85 passing yards and an interception in the red zone during the first half against the winless Cincinnati Bengals.

Now, the starting quarterback will finish it watching from the sidelines.

The Steelers benched Rudolph after their first drive of Sunday’s third quarter in favor of backup Devlin Hodges, who prompted led the Steelers to their first touchdown drive of the day with a 79-yard touchdown pass to James Washington. Once a backup himself, Rudolph was 8-for-16 passing before leaving the game and has thrown five interceptions to just one touchdown in his last two performances.

Rudolph took for the injured Ben Roethlisberger in a 28-26 loss to the Seattle Seahawks in Week 3 and has passed for 1,551 yards with 12 touchdowns and nine interceptions, coming into Sunday’s game with rough 35.0 quarterback rating. But the second-year quarterback hasn’t been making recent headlines for his abilities at the helm of the offense.

A brawl that broke out between the Steelers and Cleveland Browns during Thursday Night Football in Week 11 stemmed from a confrontation between Rudolph and Browns defensive end Myles Garrett. The situation quickly went from the two traded words to Garrett ripping off Rudolph’s helmet and striking him with it, which drew him an indefinite suspension — and a denied appeal — and ignited a larger scrum between the two teams.

Rudolph was not suspended for his role in the fight, but he was slapped with a $50,000 fine. He will earn a base salary of $658,267 this season.

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Devlin Hodges Gets Valuable Opportunity

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin gave Rudolph one more series after trailing 7-3 to the Bengals at halftime, but a three-and-out forced his hand as he summoned his rookie quarterback to the field. Hodges completed his first two passes for 90 yards and a touchdown upon entering the game, immediately reinvigorating the Steelers in a must-win road game against one of the league’s worst teams.

Hodges — nicknamed Duck — almost didn’t stay in Pittsburgh after being waived as an undrafted free agent at the 53-man roster cutdown deadline on Aug. 31, but the team opted to re-sign him to the practice squad and elevated him to the active roster less than three weeks later after Roethlisberger’s season-ending injury.

In two games of action, Hodges was 22-for-29 passing with 6.9 yards per completion. He also won his first NFL start with a 24-17 win over the Los Angeles Chargers while Rudolph was in concussion protocol, completing three-fourths of his 20 passes but passing for just 132 yards and a touchdown with an interception in the mix.

That Tomlin turned to Hodges over Rudolph is telling of how the longtime head coach feels about the quarterback room at the moment. Back when Hodges made his first start, Tomlin wasn’t exactly heaping praise on him after a win.

“He didn’t kill us,” Tomlin said in mid-October when assessing Hodges’ first start, “and that’s what you need from young quarterbacks. Generally, he took care of the ball. He made the plays that he needed to make.”

At the time, Tomlin also reaffirmed Rudolph was the Steelers starting quarterback, but a brutal month seems to have changed his outlook.

READ NEXT: NFL Announce’s Mason Rudolph Punishment for Role in Myles Garrett Fight

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