The Steelers will play their first preseason matchup in approximately one month—August 13 vs. the Seattle Seahawks at iconic Acrisure Stadium—and this much is true: There are few players who won’t be getting significant reps during that game and probably the other two.
Who would you put on the “limited or not playing at all” list? Cam Heyward? Team-approved regular person apparel while standing on the sidelines cheering on the youngins. T.J. Watt? Same. Minkah Fitzpatrick? He probably takes mental reps better than most safeties perform real ones. Najee Harris? He might be a second-year player, but he’s the starting running back, and well...Mike Tomlin.
Everyone else is fair game, and that includes every single quarterback on the roster. Why? Because the Steelers need to figure out who the starter is and whether or not he’s any good, and they need to do that asap.
It simply didn’t matter when Ben Roethlisberger was the quarterback. Oh, you may have protested Roethlisberger’s lack of preseason action. You may have been concerned about the big guy knocking off the rust or developing chemistry with new offensive coordinator (pick one of several examples and insert it right here), but it was always wasted energy.
The Steelers weren’t going to put their most precious resource in harm’s way any longer than they had to during August football.
Besides, Roethlisberger didn’t need the preseason reps; that was quite apparent starting in 2015, when his lack of August action became more pronounced, through 2018, when he would go on to lead the NFL in passing yards with 5,129.
The NFL didn’t even have preseason games in 2020, and the Steelers started off 11-0 (the offense was actually quite good during most of that time).
Roethlisberger barely played during last summer’s slate of preseason games, and it didn’t matter, mostly because he only had enough juice left in his right arm to be effective at the tail-end of most games.
It’s different this summer. It’s a new world. It’s a new era. It’s a cold, heartless one, too—at least until a new quarterback establishes himself.
Sorry, Mitch Trubisky. I realize you’re a veteran, but that’s all you are at this point. Your reputation doesn’t speak for itself, and even if it could, it might only be able to say, “Meh.” The Steelers need to see more of you. Get out there on August 13. Lay it all on the line. Stay out there for a whole quarter or even a half, and do it again the next two weeks.
As for you, Kenny Pickett? You’re a rookie. Yes, you’re a first-round rookie, but you’re still a rookie. You need to be out there for at least a quarter of each preseason game. Even if your offensive line consists of guys who will be (say it with me) producing podcasts in September, you need to get your work in and do so inside stadiums. Just like Trubisky, if you get hurt, you get hurt, but, just like him, you’re not yet a precious commodity.
And that brings me to Mason Rudolph. I don’t have to tell you how little the fans care about your physical well-being. After all, you took illegal and vicious shots to the head from players from two different AFC North rivals—and in the same season—and the fans mock you for it today. You’ve been quite active in the preseason all throughout your NFL career. You’ve played in the fourth quarter with those future social media influencers and tech guys. You’re probably the most equipped to stand in there and take the punishment without fear. That said, we need to see a lot more from you than we have up to this point.
As for you, Chris Oladukun? You’re a seventh-round rookie, which means you could enter a preseason game without pads, and nobody would care.
The bottom line is this: The Steelers will not have a quarterback on the roster that they need to shield from injury during the preseason...until they do—until someone proves he’s worthy of such treatment.
I don’t currently see such a quarterback on the Steelers roster.