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Offseason Program

Rudolph ready to battle

Mason Rudolph gets it. He knows the deal, knows what everyone else knows, that Ben Roethlisberger is solidified as the Steelers starting quarterback.

But after that, after the No. 1 spot, Rudolph knows his chance is as good as anyone for the No. 2 spot and he focused on battling for it this year during the team's voluntary OTAs.

"I don't see myself being No. 1 this year, so that would be the next-best opportunity," said Rudolph. "I'm taking every single day and just competing against myself and the guys around us. Everyone makes everyone better."

Rudolph said he feels like it is an open competition for the No. 2 spot behind Roethlisberger, one Josh Dobbs won last year, and Rudolph is hoping experience will help him have a better shot at battling Dobbs this year.

"Having the whole offseason to dive into the playbook was big," said Rudolph. "We didn't make the playoffs, which was unfortunate. But having four months of deep dives and conversations with the coaching staff and studying. I enjoy that stuff. I can get into a little bit of a nerd mentality in the offseason, but it's fun. It was fun studying. Now I'm back here, ready to go and put stuff on display.

"I feel a whole lot better just with the comfort of the offense. With the way we approach every day and know the flow of practice. Like seven shots. That was new to me last year, the intensity and the importance. It's the last play of the game, a two-point conversion or touchdown situation and just how quick everything happens down there. I got a year under my belt. I feel more prepared. I know the schemes we call down there."

Rudolph, the team's third-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, didn't play a snap last year and admits it was one of the tougher things he has had to deal with.

"It was a shock, a culture shock," said Rudolph. "I love reps, practicing, competing with my teammates. I got a lot of reps (in practice), especially on a Wednesday when Ben didn't go. There were things to look forward to, work with. But it stunk."

Getting his shot: Kameron Kelly found himself in two new spots on Tuesday as the team gathered for their fourth OTA session.

During practice he was working at free safety with the first-team defense for the first time. And after practice, he was surrounded by reporters and cameras talking about it. 

"It's a blessing," said Kelly. "That was my goal, to work with the first team. That is everybody's goal, no matter where you come from or what you were doing before. You always want to work your way up to get as much playing time as possible. I just thank God for the opportunity.

"It made me want to lock in more and make sure I came out here and made the most out of my opportunity."

Kelly was signed by the team in early April after playing for the San Diego Fleet in the now defunct Alliance of American Football. The young defensive back entered the NFL as an undrafted rookie free agent, signed by the Dallas Cowboys following the 2018 NFL Draft. He played in the preseason, and with the Fleet, but this time he is hoping for more. A lot more. And he is hoping his versatility, which includes the ability to play safety or cornerback, is something that helps him reach the goal of taking the next step.

"I told coach whatever he wants me to do I will to help the team," said Kelly. "I feel like (versatility) helps me out a lot. Wherever they need me, I can play. If we have a nickel go down, I can move there. If we have a safety go down, I can play there. A corner goes down, I can play there. I feel like I am three people at once. That helps a lot.

"I have just been out here doing my job, learning the defense as good as possible, and making sure I give my all every single rep."

That versatility can go one more step. With the Fleet he played in eight games, six of them in the secondary and two at receiver. But he wants to keep his focus on the secondary and was thrilled when he had the opportunity to sign with the Steelers.

"I prayed I was going to get an opportunity," said Kelly. "I had a couple of teams call. The Steelers called and I felt like it was the best place for me. They stay on you here, they ask you to work hard, but the atmosphere and the culture is good. It's everything they said it would be.

"I am just doing whatever I can to make the team."

He said it:

James Conner on how it feels as the No. 1 running back:
"I haven't earned anything yet. That is what training camp is for. Everything is earned, not given. We'll see."