PITTSBURGH — When Ben Roethlisberger left the Steelers’ game on Sunday and did not return for the second half, his teammates knew something was wrong.
The infamously tough, 6-foot-5 quarterback has been banged, beaten, battered and bruised many times in his 16 season in the NFL, and he has almost always found his way back to the field.
This time, it’ll be different. Roethlisberger will miss the rest of 2019 with an elbow injury that will require surgery.
Stepping into his size-13 shoes will be second-year quarterback Mason Rudolph, who made his career appearance in relief on Sunday and will be making his his first career start this Sunday in San Francisco.
There’s a huge drop-off in experience level from the Steelers’ last quarterback to their next, but it’s not something that seems to have the rest of the offense worrying.
“It was a shock, but you know it’s football,” running back Jaylen Samuels said. “It happens. We know injuries were going to happen. We knew adversity was going to happen at some point. It came to us pretty early. We’ve just got to bounce back.”
One of the reasons the Steelers are so confident in Rudolph is that they’ve seen the way the backup has prepared in the last season-plus. After being passed over in the draft and falling below expectations to the third round, the Oklahoma State alum has been singularly determined to be ready for this opportunity whenever it came.
“He prepares hard,” running back Jame Conner said. “This is what he wants to do, obviously. He wants to play and he got an opportunity. So I’m excited for him. I don’t think he’s nervous.”
There will, of course, be differences. They aren’t exactly the same player. But the differences are mostly related to Roethlisberger’s wealth of experience.
“He’s gonna throw the ball and make his reads,” tight end Vance McDonald said. “He’s just very deliberate about that. So that’s something that we can look forward to on offense. I think him and [offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner] have a great connection back and forth and I think he’s come a long way from last year.”
“When you’re in there with Ben, he can give you anything,” Samuels added. “The whole playbook. It can be stuff that that haven’t ran or ran this practice or even in the game plan. He just came up with it because he saw something in the defense. That’s what you get from Ben. You get more variety in the playbook when you’re out there in the no huddle. I’m sure Mason is learning. He’s been learning from Ben these last two years. I believe in him I’m sure everyone else believes in him in this locker room.”
The loss of Roethlisberger also comes on the heels of an inauspicious 0-2 start to the season for the Steelers. But they’re not panicking despite the double shot of adversity.
“We’ve just got to all believe in each other as a team and keep fighting,” Samuels said. “It’s still early. We’re 0-2. We can still go 14-2. It’s still going to be a great season.”
“We’ll continue to play football,” Conner said. “We’ll continue to play our game. We’ll rally around Mason and continue to work.”
Highlights from Steelers Practice 9/18/20
James Conner tested out his injured ankle and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw passes to JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington and Chase Claypool during practice on Friday, September 18, 2020.
This practice was in preparation for the Steelers week 2 game on Sunday against the Denver Broncos.
Cam Heyward Named NFLPA Community MVP for Week 1
Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Cam Heyward has been named NFLPA Community MVP for Week 1.
Heyward was honored for installing his first Little Free Library, a book-sharing box placed in underserved communities around the Pittsburgh area.
Congrats to @camheyward on being named Week 1 #CommunityMVP for installing his first Little Free Library. The book-sharing boxes provide 24-7 access to literacy for underserved Pittsburgh communities while honoring the legacy in education of his late grandfather. pic.twitter.com/uKwbnz28A1— NFLPA (@NFLPA) September 18, 2020
Little Free Library is a non-profit organization that “inspires a love of reading, builds community, and sparks creativity by fostering neighborhood book exchanges around the world.”
The installation of the book-sharing boxes marks the launch of the Rufus and Judy Jordan Literacy Project, a new initiative of the Cameron Heyward Foundation that will work to promote children’s literacy and honor his late grandparents, both of whom were lifelong educators in Pittsburgh.
Drafted in first round of the 2011 NFL Draft out of Ohio State, Heyward has spend his entire career in Pittsburgh. He is a three-time Pro Bowler, and has twice received First-Team All-Pro honors.
Heyward and the Steelers agreed to a four-year, $71.4 million contract extension on Sept. 6 that will allow him to retire in Pittsburgh and make him the highest-paid defense player over the age of 30 in NFL history.
Highlights from Steelers Practice 9/17/20
The Steelers finally experienced a practice with almost everyone on the roster able to take the field. Only two players did not take part in practice before their week 2 game against Denver.
Alex Highsmith and Minkah Fitzpatrick stood out from the rest on Thursday, September 17, 2020.