Ben's future: Ben Roethlisberger sat on the Steelers bench for an extended period of time following Sunday night's Wild Card Round loss to the Cleveland Browns, with his center Maurkice Pouncey next to him. Many wondered what was going through the quarterback's mind, if he thought it would be his last time in the black and gold.
On Wednesday, a few days after the dust settled but the pain of the loss hadn't, Coach Mike Tomlin was asked about Roethlisberger's future, and if he had made a decision on whether or not he wanted Roethlisberger back, and to assess his play.
"We haven't made any decisions about any of our personnel along those lines," said Tomlin. "All of those discussions are interrelated, and we are just beginning to scratch the surface in terms of what 2021 looks like in terms of the makeup of our team and the issues relative to it.
"In regard to Ben, I can't say enough about his performance this year. With the uncertainly coming off of injury, and particularly not having an opportunity to perform in preseason games and so forth, there really was a high level of concern about his health and his ability to perform. I can't say enough about his efforts. I can't say enough about the efforts of our medical staff and our rehabilitation staff that worked hand in hand with him to get him to that process and get him to stadiums this year. I was more than pleased with the performance of his health and his ability to stay up. In terms of the quality of his play and our play, we'll begin to assess that in the upcoming days, but in terms of him responding to the challenges that he specifically came into the season ready to face, spectacular."
Tomlin was further asked if with the salary cap implications, if Roethlisberger will be able to be back.
"I don't have a clear assessment of the overall impact of the cap ramifications, so I might not have a direct answer to your question," said Tomlin. "But I think it is reasonable to assume that there is a chance that he will be back, certainly. The depths of the ramifications of the cap discussions, I am not privy to as I sit here right now."
Making an impact: Heading into the 2020 season there were questions around the NFL about what kind of impact rookies could have on their teams given there was no in person offseason program and no preseason. Many wondered if their impact would be felt in any form or fashion.
Well, if there is one thing 2020 taught us, it's to expect the unexpected. The Steelers rookies had a big impact on the team this year, from receiver Chase Claypool, to linebacker Alex Highsmith, to guard Kevin Dotson and more.
"I will say this, I was really pleased with the contributions and the level of maturity displayed by the draft class given the circumstances of how they came into the season," said Tomlin. "To get the type of contributions that we got from a Chase Claypool or a Kevin Dotson and the growth and development of some of the others over the course of the season, it is a tip of the cap to them and the people that worked alongside them, coaches...and not only the coaches, the other players and older players that mentored them. I was generally pleased with that and I'm excited about getting them in an offseason mentoring program that may be more normal and is reasonable to expect those types of contributions to continue to solidify and get better."
Taking a step: Quarterback Mason Rudolph didn't see a lot of playing time in 2020, starting the season finale against the Cleveland Browns and seeing just a small handful of snaps otherwise.
But what Tomlin saw of him in those limited opportunities showed him that Rudolph is taking the steps that are expected.
"I thought he displayed that he took a step in growth and development in his performance, even though it was a small sample size," said Tomlin. "I would imagine that he is going to continue with that growth and development. We will see where that leads us in terms of what he is able to provide us. I'm excited that he was able to display that and I think it is reasonable for me to expect or him to expect that general trajectory to continue."