The Pittsburgh Steelers will play the Cleveland Browns on the road on Sunday to wrap up their 2020 regular season and for them, while they obviously will play to win, it’s a meaningless game ahead of the playoffs getting underway. On Tuesday, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin made it known that we can count on starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger sitting out Sunday against the Browns to get him rested up for the playoffs. As for the other players that Tomlin might hold out on Sunday and list and the team’s inactive list, the Steelers head coach attempted to explain on Tuesday what all will go into making that determination throughout this week.
“We will look potentially at resting some other guys in terms of making them inactive, but the number of those guys and who those guys are will be determined as we push through the week,” Tomlin said. “Player availability dictates that. We had a number of players miss the game last week due to injury, guys like Marcus Allen, Ola [Adeniyi], [Chris] Boswell and others. Those players’ ability to come back and be available to us really dictates the number of people we are willing to do that with. The only people I’m willing to do acknowledge at this point is that Ben will not play.”
Assuming the Steelers elevate two practice squad players on Saturday to play against the Browns on Sunday, they’ll need six more to go on their pregame inactive list with Roethlisberger. Third string quarterback Joshua Dobbs will obviously be dressed on Sunday and serve as the backup to quarterback Mason Rudolph, who will start in place of Roethlisberger. Any injured player unable to play on Sunday will be on the pregame inactive list as well.
“We will formulate a plan with that understanding,” Tomlin said Tuesday. “All the other variables in terms of who’s playing and who’s not we will determine later in the week based on injury and health, positional health probably more importantly than anything else. There’s strength in numbers, so I much rather preserve and protect players with a rotational mindset than to necessarily remove one particular player and expose the rest of the group to an abnormal number of snaps. It’s just something that we manage when faced with these circumstances. We’re not going to allow it to become a negative, to be quite honest with you. It’s a blessing to be in these circumstances and to be afforded an opportunity to make these types of decisions. That’s the spirit in which was are going to address it with.”
Will age play into the decision-making process as to which players will ultimately be held out of Sundays game?
“The number one factor is the health of the guys that we are pulling from. Injured guys are not available to us, so that reduces our options,” Tomlin said on Tuesday.
Additionally, Tomlin isn’t overly concerned about the team possibly losing momentum heading into the playoffs and thus that will not play into the decision-making process when it comes to deciding which key players will be held out of Sunday’s road game.
“I’m not overly concerned about that,” Tomlin said. “The vast majority of guys that play will be playing. They will have an opportunity to maintain that playing rhythm that you mentioned.”
Even though they won’t play their starting quarterback against the Browns and possibly a few other key older starters such as defensive tackle Cameron Heyward, center Maurkice Pouncey and cornerback Joe Haden, just to a name a few, Tomlin insisted on Tuesday that every effort will be made to win the team’s Sunday finale in Cleveland.
“Make no mistake about it, this does not change our intentions in terms of going to Cleveland this weekend, Tomlin said. “Football is our game. Our job is winning. We intend to do our job. We intend to prepare with that mindset and ultimately let our play lead us to that destination. We’re not seeking comfort. We’re not grading ourselves on a curve. This game is on the schedule, so the guys that are on the field will represent us and the standard that is the Pittsburgh Steelers. The standard will be the standard.”
For now, I would look for the Steelers Sunday inactive list to include Roethlisberger, Heyward, Pouncey and Haden and maybe even defensive end Stephon Tuitt and running back James Conner. That’s six players right there and allows for one other injured player to also be inactive should that be what occurs.
The Steelers should wind up dressing 48 players against the Browns and while some starters are sure to see action, a good bit of them are unlikely to be asked to play the entire game.