The Pittsburgh Steelers have been lucky enough to avoid COVID-19 hitting their locker room — until now — and it’s the starting quarterback. Late on Saturday, November 13, the Steelers announced their star Ben Roethlisberger has been placed on the Reserve/COVID list and will not play versus the Detroit Lions.
Pittsburgh will get a good, hard look at what will likely be their not-so-distant future earlier than anticipated. Though 99.4 percent of Steelers Twitter is clamoring for Dwayne Haskins, Mason Rudolph is Roethlisberger’s backup and will get the start.
This week, Rudolph got a lot of work with the first team at practice, as Roethlisberger has been battling an injury to his throwing shoulder and pectoral, per the Steelers injury report.
Unfortunately for Rudolph, his options at wide receiver are limited. JuJu Smith-Schuster (shoulder) has been on injured reserve since October 13 and Chase Claypool is out; week-to-week with a toe injury. Behind Diontae Johnson, who has stepped up as the No. 1 receiver, are James Washington, Ray-Ray McCloud, Cody White and Steven Sims.
Of course, Rudolph will have rookies Najee Harris and Pat Freiermuth as options in the passing game, too. It’ll just be a matter of whether Rudolph can get the timing down with his offense on a short week with little time to prepare.
This could be a prime opportunity for Washington to prove his chops (though, as a pending free agent, it’ll be an audition for other teams). Rudolph and Washington go way back to their days at Oklahoma State, where the two made headlines as the most exciting offensive pair in the Big 12. Nearly 5,000 of Rudolph’s career yards were on passes to Washington (per College Sports Reference).
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November 14 versus the Lions will be Rudolph’s 10th start since being selected 76th overall in the 2018 NFL draft. Eight of those starts came in 2019 after Roethlisberger was lost for the year with an elbow injury. His most recent start came in Week 17 of the 2020 season when he threw for 315 yards, two touchdown passes and one interception in a loss to the Browns (per Pro Football Reference).
What About Roethlisberger?
Of course, Roethlisberger’s health is what’s important here. But schedule-wise, there could not be a better team to miss a start against than the NFL’s only winless team in the 0-8 Detroit Lions. Though as we’ve seen time and time again, anything can happen on any given Sunday.
The remainder of the Steelers’ schedule is brutal, with back-to-back road games in Los Angeles against the Chargers and divisional rival Cincinnati Bengals.
Since Roethlisberger is vaccinated, he should be good to go for the Chargers game. According to NFL protocols, vaccinated players on the reserve/COVID-19 list need to be asymptomatic for 48 hours and produce two negative tests 24 hours apart to return to the active roster.
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