The Cleveland Browns will not get another shot to face quarterback Mason Rudolph — unless he comes off the bench.
Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin revealed during a press conference on Tuesday that Devlin “Duck” Hodges will start after leading the team to victory last week against the Bengals in relief of Rudolph.
“The decision is clear for us,” Tomlin said, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “It goes beyond Mason and his performance. Maybe some of those (injuries to other players) things have worn away at his play.”
Tomlin did note the decision does not have any implications on the future of Rudolph — a third round pick in 2018 — with the team.
The move did have a lot to do with Rudolph not protecting the ball of late. He has tossed five interceptions to just one touchdown the last two weeks — four of those coming against the Browns.
“He has not killed us,” Tomlin explained when asked about the benefit of starting Hodges. “There are not enough plays on his resume to paint with a broad brush. … There is going to be enough pressure on Devlin to perform, so I’m not going to add to it by talking expectations.”
Rudolph has a 5-3 record as the starter, passing for 1,636 yards, 12 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Mason Rudolph Dealing With Racial Slur Allegation
Last time the Browns and Steelers met up, Rudolph was clubbed over the head with a helmet by Browns defensive end Myles Garrett in the final seconds of Cleveland’s 21-7 win. The now infamous brawl resulted in nearly $1 million in fines and Garrett being suspended indefinitely.
It was later revealed through an ESPN report that Garrett told NFL officials during his appeal that it was a racial slur from Rudolph that sparked the helmet attack.
Rudolph has vehemently denied that claim since it came out, and spoke about it on Sunday for the first time following being benched.
“I think any human would be in one day, when your integrity’s attacked and something’s said about you that’s totally untrue,” Rudolph said Sunday about the accusation. “And I couldn’t believe it, and I couldn’t believe that he would go that route after the fact. But it is what it is. I think I’ve moved on, and — one day it was tough.”
Despite that, Garrett stood by his claim.
“I know what I heard,” Garret said in a statement. “Whether my opponent’s comment was born out of frustration or ignorance, I cannot say. But his actions do not excuse my lack of restraint in the moment, and I truly regret the impact this has had on the league, the Browns and our devoted fans.”
Rudolph did not blame having to deal with all the fallout stemming from the fight as a reason for his poor play against the winless Bengals.
“I think I do a good job of shutting that stuff out,” Rudolph said, via Sports Illustrated. “And this was just purely — not moving the ball up and down the field.”
Browns Wanted Rematch With Mason Rudolph
The fight added yet another wrinkle to the already heated rivalry between the two squads, and they will meet up again next Sunday in a rematch at Heinz Field.
“I hope he plays,” Richardson said. “Did you see him last game?”
He won’t get his wish, and instead will see the rookie Hodges. The Browns, who have won three games in a row, opened as a 1-point favorite.