No team is more aware of the consequences that can come in a football game than the Pittsburgh Steelers. In the last two years the team has watched its former defensive leader, Ryan Shazier, battle to regain the ability to walk after suffering a spinal cord injury in December 2017.
That context made the hit absorbed by Mason Rudolph even more scary Sunday.
The second-year quarterback — who is starting in the place of the injured Ben Roethlisberger — was knocked unconscious after a helmet-to-helmet hit from Ravens safety Earl Thomas.
Here’s video, but warning: Watching him fall to the turf is difficult to watch.
Mason Rudolph knocked out cold. Scary play.. pic.twitter.com/HUcZyPuvRI— Jonesy (@RoyJonesy) October 6, 2019
The hit from Thomas drew a roughing the passer flag and fans in Pittsburgh chanted for an ejection, but it didn’t look like a play with particularly malicious intent. It was just a violent collision that produced a scary situation, which fortunately ended with Rudolph walking off the field — albeit shakily and with assistance.
Thomas on Rudolph hit: "I didn’t go high. I didn’t intentionally try to hurt him. I’m worried about him. I heard he’s at the hospital. My prayers go out to him and his family. I’ve never tried to hurt anybody. At the end of the day, guys have families."— Jeff Zrebiec (@jeffzrebiec) October 6, 2019
The cart was brought out for Rudolph, but malfunctioned. That was problematic, but seeing him walk off the field was good after it looked like his left leg bent awkwardly during his fall. He was, unsurprisingly, quickly ruled out for the remainder of the game with a concussion.
The Steelers later said Rudolph was transported to a local hospital, but head coach Mike Tomlin declined to provide further updates after the game.
Coach Tomlin said he will have more information on the injury to Mason Rudolph in Tuesday. Only acknowledged it is a concussion postgame.— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) October 6, 2019
Steelers QB Mason Rudolph is home from a Pittsburgh-area hospital and doing well, according to a source. Good sign after suffering a concussion on the Earl Thomas hit.— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) October 6, 2019
With Rudolph done for the day, the Steelers had to turn to third-string quarterback Devlin Hodges to take the reins. Earlier in the 2019 season — prior to Roethlisberger’s season-ending elbow injury — Pittsburgh traded backup quarterback Joshua Dobbs to the Jaguars.
Hodges was an undrafted free agent who was elevated from the practice squad after Roethlisberger was injured. He led the Steelers to a touchdown on his first drive of the game, but couldn’t get the win as an overtime completion to JuJu Smith-Schuster was fumbled by the receiver, setting up a game-winning field goal for the Ravens. Hodges finished with seven completions on nine attempts for 68 yards.
The Steelers will hope Hodges can continue his success. While Rudolph practiced some during the week, he was ruled out for Week 6:
Steelers ruling out QB Mason Rudolph from Sunday night’s game against the Chargers. Devlin Hodges will make his first NFL start.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) October 11, 2019
The Steelers are set to play the Chargers on Sunday Night Football and now it’ll be Hodges making the start.