When Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger suffered a season-ending elbow injury in Week 2, second-year quarterback Mason Rudolph took the reins of an offense that in the past year has also lost star running back Le’Veon Bell and wide receiver Antonio Brown.
Over his three games and two starts, Rudolph has been steady under center, completing 67.6% of his passes for 515 yards and six touchdowns while throwing just two interceptions. But Pittsburgh hasn’t been very aggressive with the 2018 third-round pick.
According to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats, 24 of his 28 passes in the Steelers’ 27-3 win Monday over the Cincinnati Bengals were attempts of less than 10 air yards. But he completed 22 of them. Rudolph targeted “open” receivers, defined as having 3 or more yards of separation, on 79% of attempts, the highest rate in a game since 2016.
“You have to play your defense the right way,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Wednesday. “There are all three levels. There’s quick game, there are screens, there are the intermediate-level passes and there are different versions of those. There’s high-low, there are horizontal passes, there are crossing routes and mesh routes that you have to deal with, and then there are deep throws in all parts of the field. …
“They’re going to try to figure out where we’re going to be vulnerable, and we can’t be vulnerable. We just have to play our coverages the way they’re supposed to be played — aggressively, with confidence — and stop them.”
Ravens rookie running back Justice Hill, who overlapped with Rudolph at Oklahoma State for two seasons, said he feels like his former Cowboys teammate will make a good NFL quarterback.
“He was a good leader. He was really prepared each week,” he said. “I mean, he’s a solid player, you know?”
‘No stance’ on incident
Harbaugh wasn’t interested in talking any further about Sunday’s confrontation between Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey and Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
A day after the Ravens’ team website published video footage it said proved Humphrey hadn’t choked Beckham after pinning him to the ground, Harbaugh referred to the comments he made Monday. At his weekly news conference, Harbaugh had said, “I just don’t want the penalty.”
On Wednesday, asked about the incident again, in light of comments from Browns players and coach Freddie Kitchens criticizing Humphrey, Harbaugh said: “I don't have a stance. There's no stance. We’re not in a court of law here. There is really nothing more to talk about. I don’t know why it’s still being talked about by anybody, really, to be honest with you.”
When asked whether he had choked Beckham, Humphrey focused on Sunday’s opponent.
“We play the Pittsburgh Steelers this week, so that's my stance on it,” he said.
Humphrey said Sunday that he told a referee that Beckham should've been ejected for throwing a punch. After the Ravens’ 40-25 loss, Humphrey ran into an M&T Bank Stadium tunnel as the teams were leaving the field to apologize to Beckham.
>> Ravens tight end Mark Andrews (foot), defensive tackle Brandon Williams (knee), safety Earl Thomas (noninjury related) and cornerback Jimmy Smith (knee) missed practice Wednesday. Safety Brynden Trawick (elbow) returned to practice but was limited.
The Steelers were missing several starters at practice, including running back James Conner (ankle), wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (toe), tight end Vance McDonald (shoulder) and defensive tackle Cameron Heyward (quadricep).
>> Quarterback Lamar Jackson said he “could have done a lot better” Sunday against Cleveland. Jackson, who went 24-for-34 for 247 passing yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions and added 66 rushing yards, said the Ravens “had miscommunications going on. We just have to stay focused, be hungry during the game and just continue to build as the games go on.”
>> The Green Bay Packers claimed outside linebacker Tim Williams off waivers Wednesday. Williams will reunite with former Ravens pass rusher Za’Darius Smith, who signed a four-year, $66 million deal with Green Bay in the offseason. Smith is second on the Packers with three sacks.
>> Harbaugh announced that the team has signed defensive end Jeremiah Ledbetter to the team’s practice squad. The Detroit Lions drafted the Arkansas product in the sixth round of the 2017 draft, but he was waived the following year. The 6-foot-3, 295-pound Ledbetter joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ practice squad in 2018, was promoted to the active roster in December and was released from injured reserve with an injury settlement Sept. 11.
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>> Andrews, who along with fellow tight ends Nick Boyle and Hayden Hurst arrived at Sunday’s game with a mustache, said the facial hair is “not going to happen again, for right now.”