Why are the Steelers resting Ben Roethlisberger, starters vs. Browns?

Ben Roethlisberger won’t play in Week 17 for the Steelers against the Browns.

Pittsburg (12-3) can’t secure a first-round bye, and that’s enough for Mike Tomlin to have decided his top quarterback won’t play. Mason Rudolph will start instead as the Browns (10-5) try to secure their first playoff berth since 2002. Tomlin suggested most Steelers starters would still play, but the 38-year old Big Ben will not.

“The vast majority of guys that have been playing, will be playing,” Tomlin said early in Week 17.

Why is Ben Roethlisberger sitting out vs. Browns?

The Steelers entered Week 17 knowing they couldn’t get the lone first-round bye in the AFC since the Chiefs already clinched it in Week 16. 

“We’re not going to be that team (with the bye),” Tomlin acknowledged Tuesday. “We made that bed, and so we’re prepared to lay in it. That’s the most significant variable for us, and so with that being said, given an opportunity to airmail a player or two to the postseason, we will.”

Tomlin noted that the Steelers wouldn’t be sitting all their starters, with Roethlisberger being the only player he mentioned by name.

Sitting Roethlisberger makes a lot of sense. Pittsburgh saw in 2019 when Big Ben was out that the drop off to Mason Rudolph is a major one. The difference between the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds in the AFC is only conceptual home-field advantage in a 2v3 matchup in the second round. Roethlisberger’s health has obviously been deemed more important by Pittsburgh.

“I’m excited to get a little bit of rest this week,” Roethlisberger said Wednesday.

Who are Steelers resting vs. Browns?

Initially, the only confirmed Steelers absence vs. Cleveland due to rest reasons is Ben Roethlisberger, with backup Mason Rudolph slated to start at quarterback. Later in the week, Tomlin announced that center Maurkice Pouncey, linebacker T.J. Watt and defensive end Cam Heyward would also sit out.

Pittsburgh has dealt with nagging injuries to running back James Conner and defensive end Stephon Tuitt throughout the season, so they too would be candidates for reduced workloads against the Browns.

The reality for the Steelers is that if the game gets out of hand against Cleveland, one way or the other, backups could come in the game across the board. Especially since the Steelers would need the Bills to lose ahead of them to even have a chance to move up, there’s a decent shot the second half sees other standouts like JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool and more spend at least some time on the sideline. 

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