“We have some new injuries to contend with: Alex Highsmith with a groin (and) T.J. Watt with a groin, so we are dealing with that from a position group.”
Then he dropped something of a bombshell by saying, “Ben has a pec injury of some kind on his left pec that could affect him from a preparation standpoint. I don’t have an idea how much as I sit here right now, but we better be ready to be adjustable and deal with that.”
Translation: Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is likely to miss more than his usual Wednesday practice this week, and backup Mason Rudolph needs to be ready to go against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.
Asked when Roethlisberger suffered the injury during the game against the Raiders, Tomlin said: “I don’t know specifically when Ben got injured in-game; I don’t know that he does. Sometimes in the midst of competition—adrenaline and so forth—you just don’t know. Sometimes things just come up after.”
But he admitted that Roethlisberger took too many hits from Las Vegas defenders.
“He did, he took too many hits,” said Tomlin, before offering a laundry list of potential solutions. “We can run the ball better, we can get the ball out of his hand quicker, we can stay on schedule and not get behind the sticks and get in situations where the line to gain is so far that it enhances the rush.”
Coincidentally, it was the home opener—in Week 2 of the 2019 season—where Roethlisberger suffered the season-ending elbow injury that led to him being replaced by Mason Rudolph. The latest injury issue underscores that fact that at age 39, Big Ben needs much better protection if he hopes to stay reasonably healthy for a full season.
The Rest of Pittsburgh’s Injury List
Of course, Roethlisberger, Watt and Highsmith aren’t the only Steelers currently nursing significant injuries.
Tomlin went on to discuss both Devin Bush Jr. and Joe Haden, both of whom missed the Raiders game with groin injuries.
“They are working their way back and their participation will be our guide—or non-participation will be our guide—in terms of analyzing their availability,” explained Tomlin.
As for wide receiver Diontae Johnson—who went down with a knee injury on the last play of the Raiders game—Tomlin sounded cautiously optimistic.
“He’s looking better but not to be confused with great,” said the longtime Steelers head coach. “We’ll follow him and his health as we get through the week.”
Mike Tomlin: ‘We Have All the Answers In-House’
As for the players who will step in to replace the injured on Sunday, Tomlin emphasized that the team already “ha(s) all the answers in-house.”
If Watt and Highsmith can’t play at outside linebacker they will be replaced by free agent acquisition Melvin Ingram and former undrafted free agent Jamir Jones. On Tuesday the Steelers signed Taco Charlton to the team’s practice squad to address the depth at that position. Charlton was selected by the Dallas Cowboys No. 28 overall in 2017 NFL Draft, two picks before the Steelers chose T.J. Watt.
If Bush and Haden miss the Bengals game they figure to be replaced in the lineup by Robert Spillane and James Pierre, as was the case last weekend.
Watch Mike Tomlin’s entire Sept. 21 (Bengals Week) press conference below:
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