After watching his team’s first two preseason games from the sideline, Ben Roethlisberger will start the Steelers’ third preseason game, coach Mike Tomlin told reporters following Pittsburgh’s 24-16 win over the Eagles on Thursday night. Pittsburgh’s next preseason game will take place at home against the Lions on August 21.
Roethlisberger has typically played at least one half in one preseason game. In 2019, he started in Pittsburgh’s third preseason game, an 18-6 win over the Titans. With Roethlisberger watching from the sideline, Mason Rudolph started in each of the Steelers’ first two preseason game. Rudolph was outplayed, however, by fellow backup Dwayne Haskins in both games.
In Thursday night’s win over the Eagles, Haskins led Pittsburgh on four consecutive scoring drives after the Steelers fell behind 13-0. Haskins finished the night with 161 yards on 16 of 22 passing that included a 22-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Johnson to start the second half. And while Rudolph completed all but one of his nine pass attempts, he failed to orchestrate a scoring drive for the second time in as many games.
“I really thought he was in command tonight,” coach Mike Tomlin said of Haskins’ performance, via Jim Wexell of Steel City Insider. “He did a great job of communicating with people and going through progressions. He had a third-and-8 or something and I saw him go through three or four reads, throw the ball over the middle of the field and convert for us. That was just a snapshot of the type of night he had. I thought he was very much in command of his play.”
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While Haskins strengthened his case to be the Steelers’ No. 2 quarterback, Roethlisberger will get a chance to run new offensive coordinator Matt Canada’s offense for the first time against the Lions. Not only will he have a new offense, Roethlisberger will play behind an offensive line that will have four new starters. He will also get a chance to play with rookie tight end Pat Freiermuth and rookie running back Najee Harris, who had nine carries for 32 yards and two catches for 13 yards in the Steelers’ first two preseason games.
Roethlisberger came to his 18th training camp in good spirits after giving his arm (which was surgically repaired in September of 2019) a chance to rest this offseason. He has shown off his deep ball accuracy on numerous occasions this preseason, a welcomed sight for Steelers fans who saw their future Hall of Fame quarterback struggle with that facet of his game during the end of the 2020 campaign.
“This time last year, I had thrown thousands of footballs trying to get ready for this,” Roethlisberger said at the start of training camp. “Today was the first day I had a ball thrown since minicamp, other than throwing to my son in the backyard. It just feels more normal of an offseason. My arm feels really, really good.”