Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was not just back in town, but back on the practice field yesterday with his teammates after the 15th-year veteran skipped out on the past five OTA practices. The Pro Bowler was in attendance for the first day of practices a couple of weeks ago, but had not been back until now.
As we would later learn, of course, Roethlisberger was not just being truant, but was on a vacation with his family. And whether one is inclined to buy it or not, he talked about it with reporters as though he had both the consent and blessing of Head Coach Mike Tomlin.
“The time I was gone with my family was an awesome opportunity for other quarterbacks to get reps”, he said, according to Joe Rutter. “I know those guys really enjoyed it and were thanking me for it. It’s really just a person by person, team by team feel thing”.
With Roethlisberger not in the building, that allowed the team to get more work in for the other three quarterbacks, which is very important this offseason as they not only break in a new rookie quarterback, but also try to decide which three of four quarterbacks to keep—though realistically two are already locks.
Big Ben will likely be the team’s unquestioned starter until he retires, but there’s no doubt that Mason Rudolph is going to be on the team as well after the Steelers used a third-round draft pick on him, and went out of their way to mention that they had him graded as a first-round player.
Roethlisberger’s absence gave the rookie more opportunities to receiver higher-quality reps. While I don’t believe that I read anyone indicating he had received much if any work with the first-team offense, the second-team unit was graced with his presence in spurts.
It is the other two quarterbacks who are battling for their jobs, of course. Landry Jones is the incumbent backup, and if neither Rudolph nor Joshua Dobbs unseat him for that post, he is obviously going to make the team.
“If coach asks me to be here every day, I’d be here every day, but he hasn’t asked me to do that”, Rutter quoted Roethlisberger as saying. That comment, at least to me, would seem to imply that this whole thing was worked out with Tomlin, maybe even intentionally, to give the younger quarterbacks more time.
Meanwhile, the Steelers are still waiting for wide receiver Antonio Brown to show up again. The All-Pro was in attendance for the first two OTAs, but has not returned since. In the interim, he ha spent some time venting some unclear frustrations over social media.