Earlier this week, we talked about the Steelers and how the way they prepared for the 2010 season would have to be altered without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The game plan, the way they play field position, etc.
That still isn’t going to change, but now that Roethlisberger has been cleared by the league to return to team activities, it can’t change — and there needs to be a balance found between head coach Mike Tomlin and his suspended franchise QB.
Tomlin has a tough assignment on his hands as the Steelers wrap up their offseason program next month and then move onto training camp. Somehow, he has to get Roethlisberger involved in practice situations — because Big Ben needs the work. Just like any QB, he has to concentrate on his footwork, timing in the pocket and his on-the-field relationship with his receivers.
But, that time can’t be sacrificed when it comes to Byron Leftwich, Dennis Dixon and even Charlie Batch. Those are the three QBs that need the reps for the regular season. And, a starter needs to be chosen out of that group.
An extremely tough situation for a coach who is not only looking for a replacement, but also trying to keep his QB — the one who will take over this team once the suspension is lifted — involved in some regard.
In practice, it would be nice to have Big Ben see some time with the first unit, but as camp opens up and the QB battle ensues, it might be best to move him down to the scout team. Not the place you would expect to see a QB with two Super Bowl rings spending his afternoons, but that might be the only time he can get work.
Preseason games entail another discussion. Leftwich and Dixon need to take the valuable reps with the No. 1 offense. Where does that leave Roethlisberger? In the fourth quarter playing against rookie free agents who most likely will never wear an NFL uniform in a regular-season game? He may be able to get some good minutes in the fourth and final preseason game when the starters are resting, but that is about it.
Again, Tomlin just can’t sacrifice the time he needs to prepare his team to win games in the AFC North.
Is it unfair? Of course not, because the suspension takes precedence over anything. Not much different than dealing with a player who is injured, Roethlisberger is going to be on the outside looking in when it comes to this football team.
From a pure X’s and O’s standpoint, I want Ben Roethlisberger in that huddle. But, until that time comes when he is allowed to play in a regular-season game that matters, he will have to step aside, get the most out of the minimal repetitions he’ll get and let this team move forward at the quarterback position.
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