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Why Ben Roethlisberger's absence isn't an issue (yet)

Tuesday 15 May, 2018 | RSS Feed

Why Ben Roethlisberger's absence isn't an issue (yet)

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After the Pittsburgh Steelers' first organized team activity workout in late May, Ben Roethlisberger was asked about Tom Brady skipping his sessions in New England.

"I think he can do whatever he wants," Roethlisberger said.

OTAs are voluntary, but the point was made: Brady's elite status affords him credibility.

Since then, Roethlisberger has missed a handful of OTAs in Pittsburgh. While Brady's relationship with the Patriots is perceived as shaky, Roethlisberger's situation is different and shouldn't be alarming unless he unexpectedly extends the absence into minicamp.

Roethlisberger has missed a handful of workouts each of the past few seasons. He is leaving the basic installation to the young quarterbacks and would be at OTAs if the team made it clear it wanted or needed him there, according to a source.

In other words, Big Ben is not making any grand statement by missing workouts. He's just missing them.

Roethlisberger, who made headlines last month by questioning the Steelers' third-round selection of quarterback Mason Rudolph instead of a player who can help the team win now, is widely expected to attend mandatory minicamp June 12-14. He could be back with the team for the third week of OTAs, which begins Tuesday.

Three players in particular benefit from Roethlisberger's absence. Landry Jones, Josh Dobbs and Rudolph are receiving a spike in reps, with Dobbs calling a handful of first-team snaps last week "invaluable."

Dobbs is sort of the forgotten quarterback in the equation. The Steelers likely wouldn't cut Rudolph regardless of how he performs in practices, and they still value Jones' veteran presence in case Roethlisberger gets hurt in the regular season.

But Dobbs, a fourth-round pick in 2017, is throwing with more confidence this spring and welcomes the competition.

"It's a great opportunity," Dobbs said. "It's on the biggest stage, and it's everything you dreamed of ... Show up and show out."

The Steelers shuffle quarterbacks through various practice lineups, Dobbs said, but Jones has been the lead quarterback for much of the past two weeks. Jones has turned into a quality backup entering Year 6, and perhaps he'll have good trade value in the fall if teams suffer preseason injuries at quarterback. For now, though, it wouldn't be a surprise if Jones is No. 2 in the fall.

That doesn't make this time of year, in his role, any easier.

"Backup quarterback is just a weird position," Jones said. "It's like you're a leader, but not really, until you have to be. You're more in the background than anything on days like today. You kind of have to step up into that role. It's an odd thing. Most of the time, you don't want to be seen or heard. When Ben's not here, you have to be seen or heard."





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