There has only been one time before that Ben Roethlisberger was not o the 53-man roster since the Pittsburgh Steelers used the 11th-overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft on him, and that was when he was suspended for the first four games of the 2010 season. The Steelers ended up going 3-1 without him, nearly 4-0, as he came back to pilot a 12-4, division-winning campaign that saw them make it to, but fall short in, the Super Bowl.
That’s a far cry from 2019. The Steelers have already lost the first two games, and Roethlisberger is going to miss the final 14. That’s all she wrote, right? Not if you ask Mason Rudolph, the man replacing him, or the man who drafted him.
During his pre-game press conference yesterday, head coach Mike Tomlin made it very clear that while the Steelers were dealt a tough blow, the only thing that changes is the faces of those who are in the huddle.
“We feel comfortable with the team that we’ve assembled”, he said. “Our level of expectations in terms of our performance will not change, it has not changed. We’re getting on that plane and heading out west to win a football game, but we’ve got a lot of work between now and then”.
Part of that work includes infusing a new player into the starting lineup on defense after they acquired Minkah Fitzpatrick to play free safety. They expect him to be a plug-and-play starter to replace the injured Sean Davis, but that’s going to take some doing.
And he insists that that move was made simply to make the team better, not to send a message. “I think our team knows that”, he said when asked. “I don’t think we need to send a message by acquiring players to do it. We acquire players to win, and they understand how we’re wired in that regard”.
Both sides of the ball will face major adjustments over the course of the next three days in practice, however. “It’s easy to talk about. It’s more difficult to do”, Tomlin said of that process. “We’re excited about rolling up our sleeves with the guys when they get in this building tomorrow and starting the process of formulating a plan that highlights their skills”.
The Steelers will be taking on a 2-0 San Francisco 49ers team who haven’t even played at home yet this season, and they have historically struggled when they have had to play on the west coast, especially under Tomlin. It will not be easy to win this game, certainly. But it’s one of 14 remaining. And the expectation for all of them is the same: do everything it takes to win.