At the end of the 2019 season, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin told reporters that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was scheduled to have a key appointment at the beginning of February with respect to his rehabilitation process stemming from the surgical repair of an elbow injury that cost him all but six quarters of play of the 2019 season.
“I know that he’s due for an update somewhere around the 1st of February. A checkup that will be probably significant in terms of mapping out what’s next”, he told reporters a little over two months ago. “But that’s a moving target, that date”, he added.
Where has that target moved to? Have we hit it already, and will we actually hear about it soon? It’s now February 3, and we haven’t had any meaningful updates about Roethlisberger’s health since president Art Rooney II told reporters in so many words that they were encouraged by the early stage of his rehab, weeks ago.
It’s not too dramatic to say that the fate of the Steelers’ 2020 season rests on Roethlisberger’s shoulders…or rather his elbow. If they don’t have him under center, no matter how fantastic the defense is, it’s extremely difficult to even picture a path to the Super Bowl for this team.
The play at the quarterback position last season, between Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges, came in woefully under par in Roethlisberger’s absence. Even conceding a sizable step forward for both or either quarterback in 2020 in the event that they have to play, let’s say they even manage to make it into the postseason, who can picture Rudolph winning the Super Bowl next year?
And so, needless to say, this moving target of a health update about Roethlisberger is a pretty important one, but perhaps we will have to wait until the NFL Combine at the end of the month before we hear anything from Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert.
And even then, we might not get much out of them. In fact, unless there is news that is particularly bad, it’s quite possible that we might not know a great deal—outside of whether or not he starts throwing the ball around—about his availability for the 2020 season until very late in the process.
If Roethlisberger returns for 2020, he will be the old dog in the AFC North quarterback room. The Baltimore Ravens have the youngest quarterback to ever win the MVP Award, the unanimous choice in 2019, in Lamar Jackson. Baker Mayfield is from the same draft class for the Cleveland Browns. And as for the Cincinnati Bengals, they are all but assured to draft Joe Burrow. All of them are in the ballpark of about 15 years his junior.