In his weekly press conference on Tuesday, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin announced Ben Roethlisberger will not play in Week 17 against the Cleveland Browns. With the Steelers currently the number three seed in the AFC and can’t finish any further back, they are choosing to enter the playoffs well rested rather than attempt to improve their placing. Therefore, Coach Tomlin announced that Mason Rudolph will get the start for the Steelers at quarterback in Week 17. This per Teresa Varley of Steelers.com:
Coach Mike Tomlin said quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will not play on Sunday vs. Cleveland. He said Mason Rudolph will start.— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) December 29, 2020
He will also look at resting a few other guys, but nothing definite yet.
In 2019, Rudolph started eight games for the Steelers in which they went 5-3. In those eight games, Rudolph did not complete two of them as he was knocked out of the Steelers Week 5 overtime loss to the Baltimore Ravens and was pulled in favor of Devlin Hodges who helped spark a comeback in Week 12 against the Cincinnati Bengals. Rudolph also appeared in two other games as he came in for the injured Ben Roethlisberger in Week 2 and replaced an ineffective Hodges in Week 16 only to leave the game due to injury.
In 2019, Rudolph completed 176 passes on to 283 attempts for 1,765 yards. Rudolph threw 13 touchdowns and 9 interceptions in his 10 games in which he appeared. In 2020, Rudolph played sparingly for the Steelers where he has appeared in four games, mostly in mop up duty other than one drive at the end of the first half against the Dallas Cowboys. For the season, Rudolph has completed three or four passes for 9 yards.
Drafted by the Steelers in the third round of the 2018 NFL draft, Rudolph was the third quarterback his rookie year and did not dress for a single game. Earning the backup job in 2019 where practice time would become more available as Ben Roethlisberger continued to sit out the first practice each week, Rudolph was thrown into the fire in Week 2 and became the starter from that point.
Now that Rudolph was given the 2020 season he was expecting in 2019 to where he could develop as Roethlisberger’s backup, Sunday should be interesting to see if improvements have been made in Rudolph’s play since Steelers fans last saw an extended look in 2019. Additionally, it will make for an interesting story line as Rudolph will face the Cleveland Browns, the team in which the infamous helmet swing by Miles Garrett occurred in Week 10 last season.
The decision by the Steelers to rest players to get as healthy as possible for the post season comes down to several factors. First, the Steelers did not receive any real bye week in 2020 as their official bye was thrust upon them in Week 4 after the team had already gone through most of their preparation. Playing a brutal stretch of games due to COVID-19 issues plaguing their opponents, the Steelers could use some much needed rest for some of the more veteran players. The only thing the Steelers could be playing for in Week 17, other than to be spoiler for the Cleveland Browns, would be to improve one position in the standings which would not require any less games. Additionally, the Steelers would also need help in order to move up to the number two position as the Buffalo Bills would have to lose to the Miami Dolphins.
Stay tuned to BTSC as the Pittsburgh Steelers prepare to take on the Cleveland Browns in Week 17.
To hear more from the Mike Tomlin press conference, check the weekly Press Conference Recap Podcast below: