Zac Taylor: ‘It’s Strange’ To Be Preparing For A Steelers Team Without Ben Roethlisberger

Outside of his rookie season and a couple of bizarre or otherwise extenuating circumstances—a burst appendix, a suspension—the Pittsburgh Steelers have geared up to set quarterback Ben Roethlisberger out onto the field for the season opener annually for nearly 20 years.

Sunday marks the beginning of the first season without him on the roster after he retired following the 2021 season, and as was confirmed yesterday, it will be Mitch Trubisky under center. That wasn’t confirmed at the time that their first opponent’s head coach, the Cincinnati Bengals’ Zac Taylor, asked about what it was like to be preparing for a Steelers team that didn’t have Roethlisberger.

We’ll have to find out, when it comes down to it”, he told reporters yesterday. He did a great job for a long time. It is strange to say that, because I remember being in college when he was in college. He was a little older than me, not by much, but he was certainly a big part of what they did for a long time”.

He talked a bit about the quarterback room, which also includes the fifth-year veteran, Mason Rudolph, as well as the rookie first-round draft pick, Kenny Pickett, and believes that the Steelers did their due diligence in this area. “You’ve got to feel confident that they’ve done everything they can to put themselves in a good position there”, he said.

Trubisky got all of 11 drives over the course of the team’s three preseason games, six of which, spanning the entire first half, came in the third game, considered the ‘dress rehearsal’ for the regular season. That is the closest that we have come to getting an idea of what the offense will be this year, but Taylor recognizes that there’s so much left to learn.

“I don’t know what the offense is gonna fully look like with those guys. I’m sure there’s some things they’ve withheld that we’ll find out about on Sunday”, he said. “But we’ve got really smart players that do a good job communicating on defense, and we’ll have to be ready to make adjustments quickly”.

It helps a little less this year, perhaps, than it did last year to have former Steelers defensive back Mike Hilton in their starting lineup, since he knew Roethlisberger well, but doesn’t now much about Trubisky. We also still have a lot to learn about what Matt Canada’s offense outside of Roethlisberger’s influence can look like—especially if he manages to get a cooperative offensive line.

The Steelers’ first game without Roethlisberger is many things to many different people, but for longtime fans, I think we all probably share in that sense of strangeness. His tenure on the team marked one of the longest relationships any one player had with any one NFL team in league history, so it was unavoidable. The bigger question is, can the Steelers use the novelty of the situation to their advantage to gain an edge over their first opponents?

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