Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph left during the third quarter of Sunday’s game against the Ravens after being knocked unconscious after a hit to the helmet from safety Earl Thomas III.

On third-and-11, Rudolph escaped pressure and delivered a 26-yard pass to wide receiver James Washington. Thomas leaped into Rudolph with his arms extended just as the quarterback was about to throw, and the side of Thomas’ helmet made contact with Rudolph’s face mask. Rudolph banged his head on the turf and was motionless on the ground, as his teammates quickly called for medical attention.


A cart and a backboard were brought out for Rudolph, but he was able to walk off the field with assistance from two teammates. Rudolph’s face mask was removed from his helmet as he came off the field. The Steelers officially ruled him out for the rest of the game with a concussion, and later announced that he was taken to the hospital for further evaluation.

Thomas was flagged for roughing the passer on the hit.

“I didn’t think much of it. I was just getting to the ball, trying to make a play for my team,” Thomas said after the game. “I hit the strike zone, like we talk about. I didn’t go high. I didn’t try to intentionally hurt him. I’m worried about him. I heard he’s at the hospital. My prayers go out to him and his family, but I’m never trying to hurt anybody. At the end of the day, guys have families.”

Ravens coach John Harbaugh sided with Thomas, saying that he didn’t believe the hit was malicious.

“From what I saw, Earl is closing,” Harbaugh said. “Mason is going forward, he comes forward. [Thomas] is going to make the tackle and gets him right under the chin, kind of like a boxing game. I’m absolutely certain that he wasn’t trying to hit him in the head. It’s fast and he’s closing and Mason’s running so he’s not going down. He’s throwing the ball.”

Rudolph, a second-year player out of Oklahoma State, was filling in for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who suffered a season-ending elbow injury in Week 2.

Rookie Devlin Hodges, the all-time Football Championship Subdivision passing leader at Samford, replaced Rudolph at quarterback for the Steelers, who fell in overtime, 26-23.

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