The Pittsburgh Steelers have the opportunity to play four preseason games this year, which had previously been the norm, because they also played in the Hall of Fame game. The third preseason game is often thought of as a tune-up game for the regular season, when most or all of your starters play, and play for a longer period of time, with an actual gameplan tailored to your opponent.
The question, then, was whether or not head coach Mike Tomlin would have his starting quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, on the field for the upcoming contest, this Saturday night at Heinz Field, against the Detroit Lions. He surprised reporters when he answered openly following the previous game that, indeed, he would, without elaborating, but he did offer more thoughts following today’s practice as to why.
“If he was in the same system of offense that he’d been in, he probably wouldn’t play”, he admitted. “We’ve taken that approach in the past. But we think it’s good for him to get in the stadium and communicate with Matt [Canada] and do some of the things that the quarterback has to do from a dry run perspective before we step into a regular-season stadium”.
While some, including Canada himself, have disputed just how ‘different’ the offense is, the verbiage is certainly different, and Roethlisberger has acknowledged that that has taken an adjustment period, as it would for anybody learning a new ‘language’ in their profession.
Minus perhaps Chase Claypool, who is dealing with an ankle injury, the Steelers should have their entire projected starting offense on the field this weekend, with the offensive line finally lining up together, though it may be somewhat up in the air whether or not Zach Banner will play, or at least how much he will play.
Pittsburgh elected to part ways with Randy Fichtner this offseason, who had been an assistant coach under Tomlin since first arriving in Pittsburgh, and who inherited the offensive coordinator role three years ago. Canada was hired last offseason to be the quarterbacks coach following an extensive college career as an offensive coordinator.
This is his first opportunity to do that at the NFL level, but he has served informally as adviser to NFL teams in the past. We have seen glimpses of what wrinkles he will add to the offense, and we should see a bit more against the Lions, but we will probably have to wait until the regular season to truly watch it all unfold.
The core issue is simply getting the language and the rhythms down, and it is helpful to get some live reps in before they start counting up in Buffalo in September. Roethlisberger isn’t likely to play any more than 15-25 snaps, but it will give them some idea of how it will play out in-stadium.