PITTSBURGH – The Pittsburgh Steelers are going to let Ben Roethlisberger rest up for the playoffs.
Coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday that Roethlisberger will not play when the AFC North champion Steelers (12-3) visit rival Cleveland (10-5) in the regular-season finale on Sunday.
Pittsburgh can finish no worse than third in the AFC and is out of the running for home-field advantage after defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City locked it up last weekend.
So rather than put the 38-year-old Roethlisberger at risk, backup Mason Rudolph will return to the scene of the ugly brawl that marred the end of Pittsburgh's previous visit to FirstEnergy Stadium.
The Browns drilled the Steelers 21-7 on Nov. 14, 2019, a game in which Rudolph threw four interceptions. Even worse, he and Cleveland defensive end Myles Garrett got into a fight in the final minutes that ended with Garrett ripping off Rudolph's helmet and hitting Rudolph with it before being taken out by Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey.
The aftermath included Garrett — who claimed he erupted after being called a racial slur by Rudolph, an accusation the league could not substantiate and one Rudolph denied — getting suspended for the remainder of the 2019 season.
Rudolph, thrust into the starting role thanks to a season-ending right elbow injury to Roethlisberger in Week 2, struggled the following week against Cincinnati before being benched. Tomlin said he is not concerned about last year's incident being a factor for Rudolph.
“I haven’t had a chance to talk to him about it, but I’m sure he’s excited about getting the opportunity to start, certainly,” Tomlin said.