Mason Rudolph was named the Pittsburgh Steelers’ starting quarterback for the regular-season finale Sunday on the road against the Cleveland Browns.
Coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday that the Steelers felt it was necessary to rest Ben Roethlisberger knowing the Kansas City Chiefs secured a first-round bye last week.
“There’s one bye available in this single-elimination tournament,” Tomlin said. “We’re not going to be that team. We made that bed, so we’re prepared to lay in it. That’s the most significant variable for us, and so, that being said, given an opportunity to airmail a player or two to the postseason, we will. Ben will not be playing this week.”
The AFC North champion Steelers (12-3) can’t improve their playoff standing in the Week 17 contest at Cleveland, but Pittsburgh is still vying with the Buffalo Bills (12-3) to be the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs. With a win, the Steelers would secure the No. 2 seed. A Pittsburgh loss coupled with a win by the Bills pushes Buffalo to the No. 2 spot.
“This is no preseason game,” Tomlin said Tuesday. “The standard is the standard. Our job is to win football games.”
Tomlin said other players might rest but he expects the majority of his first-team offense to play at least some portion of Sunday’s game.
With a victory over the Steelers, the Browns (10-5) would earn a wild-card spot in the AFC playoffs. Their last playoff appearance was in 2002.
If the Browns lose Sunday, they would need either a loss by the Indianapolis Colts (10-5) or a loss by the Tennessee Titans (10-5) plus wins by the Miami Dolphins (10-5) and Baltimore Ravens (10-5). The Colts would clinch a wild card by beating the Jacksonville Jaguars (1-14) on Sunday and with a loss or tie by the Ravens, Browns or Dolphins on Sunday. The Colts would win the AFC South by beating or tying the Jaguars and having the Titans lose to the Texans.
“You got to minimize the energy that you are using to (think about) those other games,” Indianapolis coach Frank Reich said. “You are going have some energy (toward it) — it is inevitable. The way we approach it is to get it out … early in the week.”
Rudolph started against the Browns on Nov. 14, 2019, and was smashed in the head with a helmet by Cleveland defensive end Myles Garrett.
Rudolph said the incident was “cowardly, bush league,” and Garrett was suspended for the remainder of the 2019 season.