The Pittsburgh Steelers will be fielding an offense of nameless gray faces tomorrow afternoon against the Cincinnati Bengals. There will be no Ben Roethlisberger. There will be no JuJu Smith-Schuster, no James Conner, no Maurkice Pouncey, even, for that matter. Actually, the player with the most name recognition on offense who will be on the field is either Alejandro Villanueva or David DeCastro, their Pro Bowl left tackle and right guard, respectively.
Well…lots of people know the name of Mason Rudolph now, largely thanks to Myles Garrett, but that’s not quite the spirit in which I intended to refer to players as ‘nameless’; rather, it is to say that they are relatively unaccomplished in their profession.
Set to play prominent roles tomorrow are the likes of Trey Edmunds, Tevin Jones, Deon Cain, Johnny Holton, Benny Snell, B.J. Finney, and Nick Vannett. Of the group, Finney, a four-year veteran, is arguably the most notable, set to make the 11th start of his career.
Said Edmunds of the current offensive predicament, “the situation is unique”, he told Will Graves of The Associated Press. “We all know that but we have to find out a way to make it work. We’re really not in a position to make excuses, where we’re at with our record and everything and with all the injuries and stuff like that. It’s definitely hard not being able to get into a rhythm and not being able to get touches back to back but it’s our job to just go out there and do whatever we can”.
A small irony is that, due to the widespread nature of the injuries, we have actually gotten down to the second- and third-string players on offense who did in fact get time in working together during training camp and the preseason. Rudolph has thrown to Jones and Holton before. Snell has worked with these guys. Cain and Vannett were not here, of course, but the point is, this group has more familiarity with one another than it would if Roethlisberger were under center.
Take Tevin Jones, who originally signed with the Steelers as a Reserve/Future player last year. He did enough to make it to the practice squad in 2018, and he had been there all of this season as well up until last week, when he was called up, due to the injuries.
Rudolph has spent more time working with Jones than he probably had with Diontae Johnson, at least prior to Roethlisberger’s injury, which obviously necessitated him exclusively taking first-team snaps. Alternating between second- and third-string snaps in training camp, he also got plenty of work in with Snell.
That’s a plus. The fact that all of these players make up the offense this week…is not.