The Pittsburgh Steelers’ quarterback room is in a state of flux right now. With Ben Roethlisberger on the Reserve/COVID-19 List, the Steelers are preparing for the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 11 on Sunday Night Football with Mason Rudolph as the starting quarterback.
It was Rudolph who quarterbacked the team vs. the Detroit Lions in Week 10 at Heinz Field en route to a 16-16 tie. After the tie, during Mike Tomlin’s weekly press conference, he was asked about Rudolph’s play overall.
“He did a good job articulating the offense, communicating with guys.” Tomlin said of Rudolph’s performance. “The pace in which we desire to work, he was able to uphold. We work fast some, we utilize cadence as a weapon. He is central to that. We got some penalties and got a free five yards and were able to attack them downfield with his use of pace. His ability to communicate, not only in-game but between series, and express likes and dislikes and articulate what he saw was acceptable. His reads and distribution of the football were largely what we wanted. He stretched the ball down the field at times and gave us an opportunity to make them not only defend the field horizontally but vertically.
“If I could be critical of him in any way, I thought he could have been better from a pinpoint accuracy standpoint in some instances to set up run after. Putting the ball in an ideal circumstances of a guy in a flat can win that flat confrontation, if you will, and things of that nature. But largely, this is not the first rodeo for him, this is not the first rodeo for him with us, and so I don’t think any of us were surprised by the things that he was able to do for us. As a matter of fact, we expected it. I know he expected it. I think that was his tenth start for us now, and so it’s not something that’s troublesome or worrisome. We just expect that guy to play winning football for us.”
Rudolph might not have been able to get the Steelers the win, but there is no easy fix for the position as of Thursday morning. Roethlisberger, who could return from the Reserve/COVID-19 List with no symptoms and two negative tests 24 hours apart. This means the Steelers, and Tomlin, have thought about the hypothetical situation of Roethlisberger returning to the team by the end of the week.
“I’m sure there are a lot of hypotheticals that could change the discussion that I outlined. But basically, logistically, the framing that I outlined is the mode that we’re in, and we’ll cross those bridges when we come to them.” Tomlin said.
The fact remains, the Steelers have no choice but to prepare for the Chargers with Rudolph at the helm. Preparing for Roethlisberger to possibly return is setting the Steelers up for failure.
“We’ve just got so many decisions and significant days between now and then that we waste a lot of time pondering the hypotheticals. We’re going to build a plan around Mason; that’s what we’re doing today. We get a workday tomorrow with our guys that kind of starts the week. That’s what we intend to do tomorrow. We’ll start weighing those things as the sand runs through the hourglass and we get closer to kickoff.”
Would a plan for Rudolph be terribly different from one prepared for Roethlisberger? Not really.
“Like I just mentioned, also, I said we prepared the game for Ben last week and Mason executed it. There are not a lot of significant differences.” Tomlin said. “It’s not like Mason Rudolph runs 4.4and all of a sudden, we’re gonna start doing some run pass options and things of that nature. It’s not as significant a discussion as one would imagine. There are probably more likes and dislikes or feel-related things relative to the in-helmet perspective of the position.”
Will any of this matter? Will Roethlisberger be back on the active roster for the prime time game? It certainly makes things interesting leading up to the Chargers game, but this is the kind of interest most Steelers fans would rather not have.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for their trip to Los Angeles this weekend in Week 11.