A woozy Mason Rudolph was helped off the field by Pittsburgh Steelers staffers on Sunday after the quarterback was knocked out on a frightening hit and then violently struck his head on the ground during Pittsburgh’s loss to the Baltimore Ravens. According to multiple reports, Rudolph was released Sunday evening from a Pittsburgh hospital, where he had undergone evaluation for what the team said was a concussion, and was resting at home.
Compounding the frightening scene was the team’s inability to get the medical cart onto the field, a failure that left Rudolph to wobble off with assistance. The situation brought criticism from the NFL Players Association; the problem stemmed from operator error and not a mechanical issue, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which reported that the NFL had called Steelers officials to investigate.
As Rudolph ran from the pocket midway through the third quarter, the 24-year-old quarterback left his feet to throw, completing a 26-yard pass. But his helmet and face mask were struck by Baltimore safety Earl Thomas’s helmet. As Rudolph fell limply to the ground, the back of his helmet smacked the turf at Heinz Field. He lay motionless on the field, with Pittsburgh lineman Alejandro Villanueva and others signaling that the quarterback needed urgent medical attention.
A medical cart came onto the field, but Rudolph was helped to his feet and unsteadily was walked off, with Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster fighting back tears and Ryan Shazier, the Steelers linebacker who has not played since suffering a spinal injury during a December 2017 game, looking on from the sideline.
It did not appear that Rudolph’s health was negatively impacted by the medical cart’s apparent malfunction. The breakdown did not, though, escape the notice of the NFLPA, with George Atallah, the assistant executive director of external affairs for the union, tweeting: “Embarrassing. I guess $15 billion a year [the NFL’s revenue last year] can’t buy you a working medical cart.”
Thomas, who was flagged for roughing the passer, admitted that he was concerned about Rudolph. “I hit the strike zone like we talk about,” he told reporters. “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.”
Steelers offensive lineman Zach Banner tweeted Sunday evening that he had been in contact with Rudolph. “Mason and I talked over the phone. For however many seconds, I was scared about losing my friend, and then God answered my prayers,” he wrote. “I love you @Rudolph2Mason. Get better!”
A second-year quarterback out of Oklahoma State, Rudolph has been Pittsburgh’s starter since Ben Roethlisberger suffered a season-ending elbow injury Sept. 15. Rudolph has completed 63 of 94 passes for 646 yards and seven touchdowns. Undrafted rookie Devlin Hodges replaced Rudolph on Sunday, and the Steelers lost to the Ravens, 26-23, in overtime, with Hodges completing 7 of 9 passes for 68 yards.
“Mason’s my guy,” Hodges said after the game. “He’s one of my closer friends on the team. He’s really taken me in. When you saw me standing on the sideline just standing there [momentarily], it wasn’t ’cause I was freaking out about me going in. I was just thinking about Mason: ‘What’s up with him? Is he okay?’ Because there for a minute, he was just laying there. He wasn’t even moving. That’s tough to look at.”