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Mike Tomlin cites Ben Roethlisberger’s lack of time with Steelers’ offense for his preseason plan

The Steelers are going to be playing Ben Roethlisberger Saturday night vs. the Lions, and there is a reason why.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

If you are like me, you heard Mike Tomlin talk about the Pittsburgh Steelers’ plan for their starters Saturday night vs. the Detroit Lions and wondered why. Mainly, Why would he plan on playing Ben Roethlisberger at all in 2021?

The team is hoping to get Roethlisberger’s feet wet in their third preseason game Saturday, typically the final dress rehearsal for NFL teams, but the schedule makes you wonder if Roethlisberger should be playing Saturday, if at all.

When the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) was signed, the two sides agreed to eliminate one of the preseason games with the addition of a 17th regular season game. When they abbreviated the preseason schedule, they didn’t truncate the calendar. Meaning, teams have almost two weeks off before the start of the regular season.

So, with the Steelers’ plans to play Roethlisberger Saturday, you have to wonder if he will also play in Week 3 vs. the Carolina Panthers the following Friday. Assuming he won’t even dress for the game, that would leave roughly three weeks between Roethlisberger’s time on the field vs. Detroit and when he will take the field vs. the Buffalo Bills in Week 1 of the regular season.

So, why even play Roethlisberger at all? Other quarterbacks are resting the entire preseason, and Roethlisberger did just fine in 2020 without preseason snaps, and this coming off major reconstructive elbow surgery.

This week Tomlin cited Roethlisberger’s lack of experience in Matt Canada’s offense as the main reason he wants to see Roethlisberger play this preseason.

“If he was in the same system of offense that he’d been in he probably wouldn’t play.” Tomlin said. “We’ve taken that approach in the past. But we think it’s good for him to get in the stadium and communicate with Matt and do some of the things that the quarterback has to do from a dry run perspective before we step into a regular season stadium.”

On Tuesday, Tomlin had this to say about the plan for Roethlisberger this Saturday.

“We’ll play it by ear. We have a plan, but we’re willing to adjust that plan based on what it is we see in-stadium.”

Canada met with media on Thursday, and had this to say about Roethlisberger’s progress in his offense.

“I think Ben is right where he wants to be.” Canada said. “He’s playing very well. He’s worked extremely hard to bring along the many young guys up front, working with them. We’ve got a young guy in the backfield. We’ve got a young guy at tight end. He’s certainly had some rapport with those guys on the edge. They don’t have a lot of years. JuJu [Smith-Schuster]’s got a little bit more. Ben’s worked very hard to get everyone on the same page. The few changes we’ve had in our offense, the tweaks we’ve had in terminology, he’s embraced those and learned them, as well as teaching everybody else now. I’m excited for where we all are, but he’s certainly been great.”

As for Roethlisberger, how much playing time does he want to see vs. the Lions? As much as he can get.

“Because we’ve got a new system,” Roethlisberger said. “There’s a new coach, player communication in terms of a new guy, the offense is different. He’s up in the box as compared to on the field.

“There’s a lot of newness. I think it’s prudent to get as much time as I can in under those circumstances.”

The Steelers will be playing Roethlisberger Saturday night, and the hope is the offense looks like a well-oiled machine from top to bottom before Roethlisberger exits the field, likely for the preseason.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the upcoming 2021 regular season.