Trailing 17-13 and facing third-and-11 at the Pittsburgh 12 midway through the third quarter, Rudolph lined up in the shotgun and dropped back to pass. The play broke down and Rudolph scrambled to his left, stepping up the field in the process. He flicked the ball to teammate James Washington just before the crown of Thomas’ helmet hit Rudolph under the chin.
Rudolph limply fell to the ground and laid there with his eyes closed while medical personnel rushed to attend to him. Rudolph woozily made his way off the field and to a nearby hospital for further evaluation.
“I was just flying to the ball like I normally do,” said Thomas, who signed with Baltimore in the offseason after becoming a perennial Pro Bowler with Seattle. “I was asking the ref what happened and they said upstairs said that a part of my helmet kind of hit him in the chin, and that’s what caused the flag. I still believe that it wasn’t intentional on my part.”
Rudolph eventually came to as trainers cut off his facemask. He needed to be helped off the field by his teammates because the cart used to treat seriously hurt players stalled. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin wasn’t sure why the cart wasn’t working.
“Ask somebody that is in charge of that,” Tomlin said. “I don’t drive carts and things of that nature.”
Rudolph is the second Steelers quarterback to be injured this season. Starter Ben Roethlisberger is out for the season after surgery on his right elbow.
The scene of players on both sides going down to one knee while Rudolph was being treated was eerily similar to the on-field reaction in Cincinnati in December 2017 when Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier sustained a spinal injury. Shazier, currently on the Physically Unable to Perform list while he continues his rehab from spinal stabilization surgery, walked over to Rudolph and briefly comforted him as Rudolph made his way to the locker room for further treatment and examination as the crowd chanted “throw him out” at Thomas.