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Mason Rudolph ready for Year 2 close-up with Steelers

LATROBE, Pa. -- With quarterback Joshua Dobbs starting the Pittsburgh Steelers' first preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Mason Rudolph isn't sure when he'll get the ball.

He just knows he wants it.

"I don't care (about the rotation), I'm ready to play and execute," said Rudolph, who figures he'll start a game and fourth-stringer Devlin Hodges might get a nod, too.

Preseason action probably will decide if Rudolph can unseat Dobbs as the No. 2 quarterback behind Ben Roethlisberger. Though Dobbs showed he was a gamer last August by completing 29-of-43 passes for 434 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions, Rudolph has had some strong camp moments. In Friday's session, Rudolph threw for three straight scores in the "seven shots" goal-line drill, including a throw off a scramble to his right. He was missing deep balls early in camp but has started to find his rhythm with those.

The third-round pick in 2018 said he feels "10 times" more comfortable in year 2, and now he knows it's time to show it.

"I try to make it hard on myself but it is getting easier," Rudolph said. "Second year with experience helps with a lot of things. I'm not as hesitant. There were some times last year I was too (hesitant) based on not having a complete feel for protection and routes. I'm ripping it and letting it go and am very aggressive now."

Ripping it can lead to the occasional mistake, and he has thrown his share of interceptions. But Rudolph almost embraces those miscues, because of his play-the-next-play mentality. A few times he has followed a mistimed throw with a downfield gain or a touchdown in 11-man work.

Rudolph throws with authority when he's decisive and isn't waiting in the pocket too long. Something to watch Friday: He's not going to stop squeezing the ball in between defenders.

"The challenge of trying to fit the ball into tight windows, I feel like I'm good at that and I love doing it," Rudolph said.

Other young Steelers to watch

S Kameron Kelly: With Sean Davis out, the 6-foot-2 safety has gotten a lot of run with both the first and second team. He shined in the Alliance of American Football last year and has a chance to create a role.

WR James Washington: Reminding of his ability to make contested catches would be timely with veteran Donte Moncrief earning first-team status, rookie Diontae Johnson showing flashes and Ryan Switzer having a solid camp.

OL Fred Johnson: The massive former Florida Gators lineman can play guard or tackle and has pretty good feet.

CB Justin Layne: The third-round rookie isn't afraid to play physical and his length helps him in coverage. In a crowded defensive back room, quality games will help his cause.

RB Benny Snell Jr.: He came on late last week with improved blocking after a few rough moments and a physical first-down run in 11-man work that elicited a reaction from coach Mike Tomlin.

Cluster of ILBs: Devin Bush is the focus, of course, but a bunch of third-stringers -- Robert Spillane, Tegray Scales, Ulysees Gilbert III -- can hit.