Much is being said about coach Mike Tomlin’s unwillingness to guarantee that Ben Roethlisberger will be the Steelers’ starting quarterback when he returns from a four-game NFL suspension.
Tomlin, who already has named Dennis Dixon the starter for Week 1, was asked during an interview on SIRIUS NFL Radio if Roethlisberger would regain his job when he returns. The coach declined to answer the question.
“I’m going to dodge that one, and not artfully,” Tomlin said, per Sean Leahy of USA Today. “I’m not going to back myself in corner.”
Much can, and likely will, happen during the first month of football. Tomlin knows this. There are many “ifs” involved, but what if the Steelers go 4-0 in Roethlisberger’s absence, and what if the run is sparked by stellar play from Dixon? Not that it will happen, but Tomlin has to consider what he would do under those circumstances.
Tomlin might very well know that Roethlisberger is his starter, but he has very little to gain from saying it.
I don’t buy, though, the thought that Tomlin would motivate Roethlisberger in this way. It’s equally doubtful that Roethlisberger needs motivation after watching his NFL career nearly stripped away.
Don’t forget, the Steelers had discussions with two teams — the Rams and Raiders — about a trade for Roethlisberger last spring. It’s not unfathomable the Steelers would move on from Roethlisberger. They’ve at least already thought about the possibility.
So it makes sense that Tomlin has at least thought about the scenario that Roethlisberger isn’t the starter when he returns in Week 6.