The Most Important Game of Mason Rudolph’s Life

The Most Important Game of Mason Rudolph’s Life

mason rudolph

Give me a 6 pack, half-hour of rest and lets go play them again – We can beat them.                     ~ Jack Lambert

So tomorrow night the NFL preseason continues and the Pittsburgh Steelers will be playing the Kansas City Chiefs.  Now that camp has ended, the battle for the backup quarterback position for the Steelers fires off in earnest.  All reports from camp have been that Josh Dobbs and Mason Rudolph have both been having a good camp.  Rudolph perhaps has had a slight edge and looked like a better passer last week.  However Dobbs has an extra dimension, he showed that with his legs last week, and so even after the first preseason game there isn’t a ton of separation between the two.  That’s why tomorrow night is so important for both of them.

Game 3 of the preseason will be the test run for the starters, so there will be limited time for Dobbs and Rudolph.  Game 4 will be the Hodge’s show, with the surprising number four quarterback getting to audition for the rest of the league with a bunch of guys doing the same, guys desperate for a special teams roster spot or just plain ending their NFL fantasy.  So that leaves tomorrow night’s game and the practice field and game play weighs a lot more in the coaching staff’s decision.

I predict that if Mason Rudolph has a great game tomorrow night he will be the backup for the Steelers this season.  I think it also means that Josh Dobbs becomes trade bait and gives Hodges a shot at being the number three quarterback for the Steelers.  However, if Rudolph doesn’t have a great game, or if he and Dobbs look to be on the same level, I believe Rudolph will once again be the number three quarterback and that’s really bad for his career.  Potentially leading to being a career backup with no hopes of becoming a starter, anywhere.

So while there will be a lot to watch for tomorrow night, particularly at outside linebacker, tight end and receiver, the real battle tomorrow night will be Rudolph and Dobbs.  I’ve made no secret that I think Rudolph is the better choice.  In my piece about the Tennessee Volunteer to the Steeler connection, I talk about how inconsistent Dobbs was at Tennessee, one series looking brilliant and the next three completely lost.  We’ve seen that a bit at the NFL level as well, which makes me think he doesn’t have what it takes to be a long-term (4 games or more) solution if Big Ben gets hurt during the season.  But it’s up to Mason Rudolph tomorrow night, he has to show he’s got the goods.


Preseason NFL: Steeler Game 1

Preseason NFL: Steelers Game 1

Steelers, nfl

Ahhhh, football is back!

Ok, sure it’s preseason, so we’re not talking about wins and loses. The big guns are on the bench. So it’s time to check out the young guns, the camp battles, the camp phenoms and the Cinderellas.

THE young gun is first round pick Devin Bush. He was absolutely as billed, fast, furious and flying to the ball, 7 solo and 3 assisted tackles, great start. Just missed a pick 6!

Benny Snell was a little slow, but kept coming all game, great start.  Justin Layne similarly improved,  he was terrible in the 1st quarter, way too much cushion.

For the receivers, James Washington played a great game. Horton can fly, Tevon Jones looked good in garbage time.

On the defense,  Big Dan continues to play well, but Dirty Red was wreaking havoc including a sack/fumble.

All of the QBs looked, no real separation between Rudolph and Dobbs. Rudolph is throwing a bit better but Dobbs’ legs bring an extra dimension.

Surprise of the night had to be Spillane, good in coverage,  caused a fumble on a kickoff and was around the ball a lot. Skipper looked good on the pass rush, should have been 2 sacks except for intentional grounding.

All in all a typical first pre-season game but it’s good to have football back.


Steeler Post Draft Analysis

Steeler Post Draft Analysis

devin bush, steelers, nfl

Give me a 6 pack, half-hour of rest and lets go play them again – We can beat them.                      ~ Jack Lambert

The NFL draft is over and it’s time to take a look at what the Steelers did and how it should impact the upcoming season.  Of course the roster is not completely set for camp, rookie mini-camp shook some things up and there still could be some other moves to come, although if history is any guide the roster is 99% set.

The NFL Draft

First let’s get the facts out of the way, the following is a list of the NFL draft day picks for the Steelers:

  • No. 10: Devin Bush, ILB, Michigan
  • No. 66: Diontae Johnson, WR, Toledo
  • No. 83: Justin Layne, CB, Michigan State
  • No. 122: Benny Snell, RB, Kentucky
  • No. 141: Zach Gentry, TE, Michigan
  • No. 175: Sutton Smith, OLB, Northern Illinois
  • No. 192: Isaiah Buggs, DT, Alabama
  • No. 207: Ulysees Gilbert, LB, Akron
  • No. 219: Derwin Gray, T, Maryland

As I posted before the draft, I was content to see the Steelers wait til 20 in round 1.  But I have to say I was really excited to see us move up and take Devin Bush at 10.  This guy is a three-down inside linebacking speed machine with a good head for the game.  He’s the inside linebacker replacement for Ryan Shazier that we’ve all been waiting for.  The cost was effectively a 1st, 2nd and 3rd round pick, hopefully, and I expect it, to be worth it.

Diontae Johnson was not a surprise to me when I heard the analysts say one thing on draft day.  One commentator stated that he thought Diontae Johnson may be the most complete route runner in the draft.  The reason this made me think the Steelers would pick him was that last year Ben Roethlisberger’s biggest complaint about receivers coming out of college was that they didn’t know the complete route tree.  Given this, I think there is a good chance we see Johnson on the field sooner than later.

Justin Layne was a great pick!  Likely they had a first or second round rating on him and he’s got size, speed and talent, he could be Joe Haden’s future replacement and his presence ups the competition for the DB’s on the roster.

Big Benny Snell, in my pre-draft piece I said the Steelers should take him and I’m so happy they did.  Snell will be a great addition to an already talented young running back room.  I’m very excited for hopefully a renewed focus on the run game this year.

Ok, let’s face it the rest of the picks are depth picks, you hope that some of these guys develop well enough to provide depth and special teams support and maybe even develop eventually into a starter, but not a lot of reason to talk about them until we see what they do in the actual training camp.

The Undrafted Free Agents

So here is the list of the Pittsburgh Steeler undrafted free agents


  • Jay Hayes, DE, Georgia
  • Chris Nelson, DL, Texas
  • Travon McMillian, RB, Colorado
  • Alex Myers, DB, Houston
  • Dravon Askew-Henry, S, West Virginia
  • Ian Berryman, P, Western Carolina
  • Matthew Wright, K, Central Florida
  • Trevor Wood, TE/LS, Texas A&M
  • Garrett Brumfield, G, LSU
  • Fred Johnson, G, Florida


The same thing applies to this list as the late round draft picks, not much of a reason discussing them until we see what happens in camp.


Pre Training Camp Roster Analysis

So an active year for the Steelers, some high profile departures in Bell and Brown and some free agent moves (Barron, Montcrief and Nelson).  I personally believe the organization did a good job of putting together a solid roster for the upcoming camp and season.

The “expert” NFL talking heads of course disagree, the Steelers are broadly being panned as done, the third best team in the AFC North with the Browns winning the division and by Peter King today as the 18th best team in the NFL.  My favorite is the discussion of how the Browns are the new AFC dynasty, not Patriot level, but the next AFC dynasty.  Google, Browns NFL dynasty, you’ll be shocked at how many people are writing about this.  Of course keep in mind these folks are paid to get clicks not necessarily be right.  But c’mon, a dynasty with a second year quarterback, a head coach with 2 months of in-season experience and absolutely no defensive depth.  Sure, lots of talent, but an injury or two on defense and this team will need to score 35 points a game to win.  As for the Ravens, well Jackson is the solution to all of the Raven’s ills, the only question I have is can he play inside linebacker?  The Ravens have revamped the defense after some free-agent losses and are really depending on some young receivers to take the target off of Jackson.  I think, after now having some tape on Jackson, he’ll still be good, but not quite the weapon he was last year.  As for the Bungles, well, basically every writer just bags on Andy Dalton, calls them the Bungles and moves on, hard to disagree.

Cleveland Brown dynasty aside, I think the Steelers will win the AFC North this year.  Why?

Well, first there will be less drama, secondly, we’re not replacing Bell and Brown.  We replaced Bell last year and yes, there is a whole lot of AB production to be replaced.  However, some of that production can be replaced in the running game.  Also, we don’t need someone to make 115 catches this year to replace AB.  We need more emphasis on the run, and then for MacDonald to up his production and for Washington, Johnson and Montcrief or a subset of them to have really solid year.  Then of course just let JuJu be JuJu.

Secondly, we should have a much better defense this year.  We’re better in the middle, we’re better at corner and have depth at both.  Barring injuries, this should be a very good defense this year.  I agree with the over/under of 9 wins for the season, it’s a solid prediction. And then, a guy like Bush, when he starts flying around, much like Shazier did, can energize a defense.  That of course would mean the offense needs to put up less points to win.  Most importantly, when you have a future hall of fame quarterback you’re never out of a game.

If a few things happen, a lack of significant serious injuries, Bush playing as advertised, Washington making a good second year leap and Neslon being a solid starting corner on the outside, then this could be a Super Bowl team.  And a Super Bowl team that looks a lot more like the Steelers of old, more of a pounding running game and a voracious defense.  Let’s hope so.


A Running Back, AB and Thoughts on the Draft

A Running Back, AB and Thoughts on the Draft


Everyone’s job is important, no one is indispensable. ~ Chuck Noll

Hello Everyone,

Seems like the drama will continue through the off-season.

Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster

I’m sure by now you saw that AB is running his mouth about JuJu and he decided to return fire.  A lot of folks have come out to condemn AB’s classless behavior including former Steeler Ryan Clark.  It’s a shame that someone who was so adored by Steeler Nation has turned into such a giant asshat.  I speculated in a recent Bell and Brown post that jealousy over the attention JuJu has been getting was part of the problem, looks like I was right on the money.  It’s a damn shame someone as talented as Brown has such a fragile ego and honestly, although I wish we’d gotten more for it, it’s a good thing he’s gone.

Another Running Back

I think it’s pretty clear that the Steelers will be in the market for another running back before the start of camp.  And I don’t mean just a camp body but someone who could be a third string back and provide some meaningful help if there’s an injury to James Connor or Jaylen Samuels.  This would be similar, but perhaps even a more limited role than DeAngelo Williams had a few years back.  By the way, in scouting the web for this quick piece I bumped into an interesting ranked list of all Steeler running backs, what do you think?

In looking around the league and the now defunct AAF, I can’t get one name out of my head, Trent Richardson.  I know, the Browns drafted him – strike one, he flopped with the Browns – strike two then flopped with Indy, strike three – bust.   However, you don’t get drafted number one without talent, he played behind a Browns offensive line and then for Indy and he was leading the AAF in rushing touchdowns.  Although he didn’t make it in the NFL on his first try, his career rushing average is 3.3+ yards per carry and his receiving average was 8.1 yards per catch.  Absolutely not number one pick numbers, maybe not starting numbers but pretty good for a number three back.  He’s desperate to get back to the NFL so he’s highly motivated to perform, so I say sign him to a one year league minimum and see what he can do in camp.  Along with of course a late round draft pick.  I’ve seen a couple of mock drafts that suggest Benny Snell might be available in the fifth round, if so that would be a bargain draft price for a really good running back.  Playing at Kentucky he was under the radar, but Benny Snell can ball.

The NFL Draft

We all love NFL Draft Day and we all hate NFL Draft Day.  That first round is either the joy of watching David DeCastro drop in our laps or watching our team fail to trade up or get an inside linebacker and instead picking Terrell Edmunds.  Not kicking Edmunds here, I thought he did a good job in his first season and showed some flashes that he could take a nice first year jump into a very solid piece of the defense.  This year’s draft is all about the Devins, will we trade up, will Devin Bush fall in our laps?  I read an interesting piece that suggested if we want Devin Bush to fall, we need to see trades for quarterbacks and both bigtime tight ends to get chosen up high, sounds about right.

In thinking about the draft, I’ve been all in on the idea of dropping whatever picks we need to go up to number nine and get Devin Bush.  However, the more I’ve been thinking about it, the more I don’t like that idea.  We tried that last year and failed, as Bob Labriola always reminds us, it takes two to make a trade and the Bills might not be looking to move down, and anything higher might be too rich for our blood.  Given the signing of both cornerback, Steven Nelson and linebacker, Mark Barron our starting lineup is in pretty good shape.  We desperately need someone with youth and range at both positions as backups or even starters but we could survive a year without it, it’s still better than last year with Burns and Bostic.  Joe Haden is also likely gone after the next season or so and it would be nice to get his heir in place.

For all of these reasons I’ve come around to this position.  We have 10 draft picks.  Sit and wait for the 20th pick.  If Devin Bush is available pounce, if by some miracle Devin White should be available at 8 or 9, trade the house for him.  But if neither are there at 20, take the best corner available (I know we’ve sucked at picking corners in the draft) or if again some super stud DL or edge guy is there pick them, don’t pick a wide-receiver, there are plenty in the later rounds.  Then in the second or third grab an ILB for depth as well as grabbing an edge guy, find a receiver, add an OL depth guy and late in the 5th, 6th or 7th a running back.

The fact is, I’m pretty excited about the Steelers possibilities for next year, but Spring, on the NFL calendar, is always a time for hope.


2019 Mock Drafts – 2/18/19

2019 Mock Drafts – 2/18/19

pittsburgh steelers, steelers, latrobe

The Steelers drafted guys who were bigger, stronger and faster than me, but they never found one who could never take my job away from me. ~ Jack Lambert

Well with the beginning of silly season, that period of time between the end of the season and the actual draft, we normally don’t have much to talk about in Steeler Country.  But this season, with the AB drama, the will they or won’t they tag Le’Veon game there’s a lot to talk about.  Tonight I figure I’d lay out some of the mock draft action from around the web.

Personally, whether AB goes or not, the Steelers need help at inside linebacker, corner back, and outside linebacker.  Of course if AB moves on there will need to be someone brought in at wide-receiver as well.  These are the positions where the Steelers need at least rotational players and likely new starters.  There are needs for depth as well, defensive line, running back and tight-end.

The drafts have not surprisingly flowed around the needs related to starters.  Some have shown first round picks of wide-receivers regardless of AB’s situation.  When the hell will the mock draft folks get it in their heads, the Steelers don’t draft first round wide-receivers.  Who I’ve generally seen so far:

ILB Devin White – this is my dream pick with our current picks (it may change if an AB trade yields a better than #20 first round pick). Unfortunately, I don’t see White dropping to #20, it would be a gift if he did.  He’s a bit raw but his upside is huge and he reminds a bit of a certain #50 fly all over the field linebacker.

ILB Mack Wilson – not quite the athletic freak that Devin White is, or maybe the upside that White has, but Wilson is likely more ready to play at this level and either White or Wilson next to Vince Williams in the middle would be a big improvement over last year.

OLB Jochai Polite – this guy has started showing up in recent mock drafts, he’s an edge rusher from Florida and could be a good addition to a Bud Dupree, Anthonly Chickilo (assuming he re-signs) and TJ Watt rotation.

DB Deandre Baker – another supposedly good cover corner coming out of college.  I’m not being fair to Deandre Baker I know, but the Steelers have been really snakebit on DB draft picks and I have no faith left.


Here’s a trip around the Web for some of the Mock Drafts:

Walter Football

Bleacher Report

CBS sports

USA Today



Welcome to Jack Lambert’s Toe

Welcome to Jack Lambert’s Toe


I am very aggressive and very physical. On the field, I guess I am just plain mean.     ~ Jack Lambert

This is quite simply a fan’s blog about the Pittsburgh Steelers.  The Jack Lambert’s Toe bit comes from the fact that maybe the toughest, meanest player in NFL history, had to end his career because of turf toe.  Turf toe, I always found the idea laughable until it took down Jack Lambert.  So I thought it was a unique way to pay a homage to one of my favorite Steelers and be a blog name that no  one else was using.

I’ve been a Steeler fan since 1973, not great days for the Steelers back then.  The way a kid from New York became a Steeler fan is a little bit silly.  I was 9, I had a friend who was a bit older and he asked me who my teams were, I told him I was a Pirate fan.  I’d had the privilege of seeing the Pirates beat the Mets live, including the great Roberto Clemente robbing a homerun during the game.  It was his last season and would tragically die at the end of the season.  I also told my friend I liked the Celtics, I’d seen them play a couple of times live.  But I had no hockey or football team so I quickly picked the Islanders because I watched them on cable.  Finally, for football, I didn’t want a NY team, I was, and still am a bit of a contrary bastard, and so I went with Pittsburgh because of the Pirates.


It was a decision that would lead me to suffer through five seasons of not very good teams, but I stuck with them.  Then in the late 70’s, it became a very good time to be both in junior high and a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers.  It has led to a lifetime fandom, even though I’ve lived in NY, KY, TN and in CA for the last twenty years.  I’ve made my pilgrimages to Three Rivers, Latrobe and Heinz Field over the years.  Even was in San Francisco during the famous Monday Night Football blackout game.

I’ve been a blogger for the last ten years, I write a somewhat popular blog about living a happier life called The Ministry of Happiness.  I write about being happier, about my travels and some hiking trips including hikes to Mt. Everest, across Scotland and a thousand miles on the Appalachian Trail including my book, Appalachian Trail Happiness.  But this blog will focus on one thing, my love of the Pittsburgh Steelers and an opportunity to lay out my thoughts and opinions and to hopefully get yours.

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