There were some issues for Coach Mike Tomlin to explain or clarify during his weekly news conference today at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, and a number of those had to do with Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges.
To recap the events of last Sunday at Heinz Field, Rudolph was concussed by a helmet-to-helmet hit from Ravens safety Earl Thomas midway through the third quarter. The medical personnel who attended to Rudolph on the field allowed him to be walked off rather than driven off by a cart, which afterward had to be pushed off the playing surface. Tomlin was asked about the malfunctioning of the cart and whether he was alarmed by that sequence of events.
"Let me be clear, because I really didn't know what (the media) was talking about when you asked me (about the cart) after the game. There are two carts in our stadium, and there are probably two carts in every stadium. (Mason) walked off the field because he chose to walk off the field and the medical experts were comfortable with his ability to walk off the field and the safety of that. Whether or not the cart was functioning is irrelevant to the fact he walked off the field, and to be honest with you, I didn't know the cart wasn't functioning until after the football game because I was more concerned with Mason. As he got himself together and was able to walk off the field, he was dialoguing with me and others, and that's where our attention was. I didn't realize the cart story was such a story even when I was with (the media) after the game."
Tomlin then was asked for his opinion about Rudolph being walked off the field:
"No. 1, I'm not a medical expert, and the people we have a great deal of trust in, they were with him and they made the decision that it was safe for him (to walk off the field). He had a desire to do so. And so we didn't analyze that overly."
Once Rudolph was removed from the game, he was replaced at quarterback by Devlin Hodges, who was neither drafted nor signed as an undrafted rookie and had to make the team by impressing at a tryout that was a part of a three-day rookie minicamp.
Hodges, who was waived when the Steelers cut their roster from 90 to 53 on Aug. 31, was signed to the practice squad after the team traded Josh Dobbs to the Jacksonville Jaguars. It was only after Ben Roethlisberger had elbow surgery and was placed on the injured reserve list that Hodges was added to the active roster, and then after two weeks as Rudolph's backup he found himself on the field for his first NFL regular season game.
As for his impressions of Hodges from Sunday, Tomlin said, "No different than my impressions I had of him throughout this process. He has an awareness and savvy, or moxie about him, that's beyond his experience. It was evident in Latrobe, he carried it into preseason stadiums, and now he's giving us a little insight that he's capable of carrying it into regular season stadiums. It's all positive. Obviously, he lacks a lot of experience and the things that go with experience, but I like his demeanor, I like his steady attitude and approach to it. And I think that's an asset to him and to us in the present circumstance."
TOMIN'S INJURY UPDATE
"From an injury standpoint, Mason Rudolph is in the concussion protocol. He was in the building yesterday. He appears to be doing fine, just in terms of communicating with him, but I won't have a lot of detail in terms of where he is in the protocol, or speculating what that is, or the timetable of it. I've been at this long enough to know I'm not a medical expert, and we have a great deal of confidence in our medical experts and the independent neurological people who are involved in this process, and they'll do their due diligence, and when Mason's available to us he'll be available to us. But just from seeing Mason and interacting with him, he appears to be doing fine and he has expressed that. That's really all I have in terms of intimate details regarding him or his status or what the week could potentially look like. I don't want to get into speculation that could be endless.
"There were some other injuries in-game. Some we mentioned, and some we didn't. James Washington is still being evaluated with his shoulder injury. He's probably got questionable availability. Mark Barron also (questionable) with his hamstring injury. Steve Nelson is new (to the list) with his groin injury. We'll monitor him and his (practice) participation throughout the week and let that be our guide for his availability (in the game). And the new one significantly to mention is Jaylen Samuels had his knee scoped yesterday. He had a knee sprain, and he's roughly going to be out a month, but as we get closer through this process we'll know what the timetable looks like. That's (an injury) that showed up after the game, even after I visited with (the media) after the game. We had him evaluated and saw that the procedure was necessary, so we made the decision to fix it and fix it ASAP, and it was fixed (Monday).
"Those things being said, there could be some subsequent moves from a personnel standpoint to fill out the ranks, but I don't have the intimate details there. We have some time in which to do that, and a lot of the candidates are practice squad guys, and so they're here working and available to us anyway.
"Some of the previous guys who have been dealing with injury and appear to be moving in a positive way, we'll see about them and check their availability (for the game) based on practice participation through the week. Those guys are Anthony Chickillo (foot), Rosie Nix (knee), and Vance McDonald (shoulder) who missed the (game against San Francisco) and looks to be no worse for wear following his performance (against the Ravens)."