Mike Tomlin Makes Decision on Ben Roethlisberger for Week 17

Mason Rudolph Ben Roethlisberger

Todd Olszewski/Getty Images Quarterbacks Mason Rudolph (#2) and Ben Roethlisberger (#7) of the Pittsburgh Steelers before the start of the game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on November 01, 2020.

On Tuesday Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin addressed the media for the first time since Sunday’s AFC North-clinching comeback win over the Indianapolis Colts. Most notably, he announced that Mason Rudolph will start at quarterback against the Cleveland Browns, a game the Browns (10-5) almost certainly need to win to be one of the seven playoff teams in the AFC.

“Given the opportunity to air mail a player or two to the postseason, we will. Ben will not be playing this week. We’ll turn toward Mason Rudolph and our young quarterback positional group and give those guys an opportunity.”

As such, third-string quarterback Josh Dobbs figures to be active in place of Roethlisberger. If so, it will be the first time this year that Dobbs will be active for a game.

It also means that Ben Roethlisberger won’t have a chance to add to the number of wins he has accumulated in Cleveland. You may recall that until mid-November, Roethlisberger was the winningest quarterback in the history of FirstEnergy Stadium with a record of 11-2-1. Third-year Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield finally eclipsed Roethlisberger by earning his 12th home victory with a Week 10 win over the Houston Texans.

Mason Rudolph vs. Myles Garrett and the Browns

That said, Steelers backup Mason Rudolph is going to get a chance to face Myles Garrett and the Browns for the first time since last November, when Garrett sparked an end-of-game brawl by clubbing Rudolph over the head with his own helmet. Garrett went on to accuse Rudolph of calling him a racial slur during the altercation, doubling-down on that accusation this past February. It’s an accusation that Rudolph has vehemently denied.

Garrett was suspended indefinitely by the NFL in the wake of the brawl, and dozens of players on both teams were fined, including Rudolph. Garrett was reinstated by the NFL in February, and just prior to the 2020 season, he indicated he wanted to have a face-to-face with Rudolph in an effort to clear the air.

As for last year’s game at Cleveland, it was won by the Browns, 21-7. Rudolph finished 23 of 44 for 221 yards, with one touchdown and four interceptions for a passer rating of 36.3, the worst outing of his young career.

Rudolph has appeared in four games this season, but has attempted just four passes. He has a 5-3 career record as a starter, having completed 179 of 287 career passes (62.4 percent) with 13 touchdowns and nine interceptions for a passer rating of 81.8.

Mike Tomlin on Resting Other Starters vs. the Browns

On Tuesday, Tomlin also spent time discussing his thought process in terms of resting other players in addition to Roethlisberger.

“We’ll look potentially at resting other guys in terms of making them inactive but the number of those guys and who those guys are will be determined as we push through the week,” said Tomlin. “Player availability dictates that. We had a number of players miss the game last week due to injury…. Those players’ ability to come back and be available to us really dictates the number of people we are capable of doing that with. The only thing I am willing to acknowledge at this point is that Ben will not play.”

Tomlin went on to indicate that age probably wouldn’t be a big factor in determining the one or two other players who would potentially sit out Sunday’s game—that it’s positional health that will be more important than anything else.

“There is strength in numbers and I’d much rather preserve and protect players with a rotational mindset than to necessarily remove one particular player and expose the rest of the group to an abnormal number of snaps,” said Tomlin. “The number one factor is the health of the guys that we’re pulling from. Injured guys are not available to us, so that reduces our options.”

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