Mike Tomlin Makes Revealing Statement About Steelers Backup QB Situation

Mason Rudolph Steelers

Bobby Ellis/Getty Images Mason Rudolph #2 of the Pittsburgh Steelers passes the ball against the Cincinnati Bengals on November 24, 2019.

On Tuesday morning the Pittsburgh Steelers added quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to the team’s Reserve/COVID-19 list along with three other players. Roethlisberger hasn’t tested positive for the virus, but he is “high-risk,” as he’s been in close contact with Steelers tight end Vance McDonald, who has tested positive and was placed on the team’s COVID-19 reserve list on Monday.

If Ben Roethlisberger Can’t Start Against the Bengals…?

As such, it’s no surprise that one of the questions asked of head coach Mike Tomlin on Tuesday was: Who will start for the Steelers against the Bengals if Roethlisberger isn’t available?

“We’re going to work both young quarterbacks this week,” said Tomlin during his virtual press conference. “Mason is going to get the bulk of the work, that’s the position that he’s in. But we’ll play it by ear as we proceed through the week. I’m not opposed to playing anyone that increases our chances of winning based on what we are looking at.”

That answer suggests that it’s not a given that Rudolph would get the start. Or, more likely, it’s possible that both quarterbacks could see snaps against the Bengals, with Dobbs perhaps getting to run a select package of plays in certain situations, much like the Saints utilize Taysom Hill to complement Drew Brees.

Also, for what it’s worth, at another point in the press conference Tomlin was speaking about the importance of protecting the football against the Bengals and referenced his backup quarterbacks together.

“We need to do a really good job, obviously, of safeguarding the football, particularly under the potential circumstances that we could be working in this week with younger quarterbacks preparing to play or potentially playing—or Ben playing without a lot of physical repitition.”

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Ben Roethlisberger on Track to Start vs. Cincinnati

The main thing to remember right now is that Roethlisberger and the three other players added to the COVID-19 list on Tuesday—linebacker Vince Williams, running back Jaylen Samuels and offensive lineman Jerald Hawkins—must continue to test negative for the remainder of the week in order to play against the Bengals.

But if Roethlisberger successfully passes through the COVID-19 protocols, he will start on Sunday, according to Tomlin, albeit without participating in any regular practices.

Williams is also expected to play a prominent role on Sunday if he continues to test negative, but Tomlin sounded less certain about Samuels and Hawkins, owing to their relative inexperience.

“We’ll make judgments based on how the week transpires,” he added. “Their lack of a resume or experience could be a factor in determining how we use those guys, that’s just the reality of it.”

But “[all four] guys will be working remotely throughout the week and testing daily,” confirmed Tomlin. “As long as their tests come back negative, we believe that all four guys have the opportunity to be made available to us on Saturday.”

As for Roethlisberger and Williams not getting any practice time this week, Tomlin tried to put a positive spin on what is a less-than-ideal situation, saying, “Really it will give their bodies an opportunity to get some much-needed rest and we’re optimistic that those guys will be their normal selves if given an opportunity to play this weekend.”

You can watch Tomlin’s press conference in its entirety below:

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