Steelers Nation reacts to losing Ben Roethlisberger for the season
Big Ben is gone, but the season goes on.
Western Pennsylvanians on Monday had mixed reactions to news that Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will be out for the rest of the season because of an elbow injury.
The reaction ranged from: “There’s no hope” to “Out with the old, in with the new.”
“It’s awfully ironic how he went down and the new guy’s taking his place when that’s what happened when (ex-quarterback) Tommy Maddox went down,” said Dennis O’Neill, 51, of Monroeville. “There’s a little irony going on there if you’ve been around that long to remember that.”
Several people who spoke with the Tribune-Review said they have high hopes for Mason Rudolph, who is now the Steelers starting quarterback.
Roethlisberger left the game just before halftime during the team’s home opener against the Seattle Seahawks. The Steelers lost 28-26. Rudolph completed 12 of 19 passes for 112 yards and two touchdowns.
“The way Mason Rudolph played, I don’t think it’s going to be that bad,” O’Neill said. “He’s a young kid that came in and played pretty solid. He’s not scared. He’s pretty well-composed. I don’t think it’s a bad thing.”
Eddie Hollinger, a Steelers season ticket holder from Harmar, thinks Rudolph will do “just fine” in his new role.
He has been a fan since he was young and thinks it’s time for Roethlisberger to step down.
“He’s getting a little slower, he’s getting a little older. He can’t shake people off like he used to,” Hollinger said. “Everybody has his time. He’ll be around as a coach, maybe.”
Doug Pawlak, 55, of Freeport is also a longtime Steelers fan.
He said, “Doesn’t Mike Tomlin always say ‘Next man up’?”
“I think Mason Rudolph is a pretty decent quarterback and I think he will fill in as best as he can as a young player in the NFL,” Pawlak said. “He had some nice moves yesterday.”
Patrick Deak on the other hand said the situation is a “devastating blow” to the team and the season is “probably pretty much over.”
“They were already having issues before he went down. We’ll see what Mason Rudolph can do, but I think their season’s done,” said Deak, 46, of Pittsburgh’s West End. “I don’t think they’re going to make the playoffs.”
The word spread quickly during the lunch hour Downtown as fans eyed the news on their phones as they took breaks.
“I think it’s obviously unfortunate that he’s hurt,” said Brett Huston, 41, of Collier.
Huston was at Heinz Field Sunday and lamented the loss of Roethlisberger and the Steelers’ 0-2 record.
“He’s a hall of fame quarterback and this is certainly a relatively significant injury,” Huston said. “Hopefully, a younger quarterback can come in there and do the job,” he said. “It’s going to be tough to replace a hall of famer, that’s for sure.”
Lauren Scioscia, 50, of Sewickley agreed, but she sang the praises of Rudolph, who came in and kept Sunday’s game close.
“I think he showed a lot of poise and confidence,” Scioscia said. “I think we’ll have an OK year.”
That said, she made a realistic prediction: “I don’t think we’re going to make the playoffs.”
She was hopeful Big Ben can make a return and play a few more seasons for the Steelers before he retires, Scioscia said.
Others weren’t as kind or optimistic.
“Ben should have been done a long time ago,” said Joshua Miller, 25, of Slippery Rock. “It seems like he’s lost his edge. I don’t think it’s looking too good for the Steelers at this point. I’m going to say a 9 and 7 season.”
Maurice Collins, 20, of the North Side put it succinctly: “It’s over for us.”
“We’re going downhill from here. If we can’t get it done with Ben, we can’t get it done.”
But Collins said he will continue to root for the Steelers, because he’s committed.
Another North Side resident, Codell Daniels, 50, said it’s time for the Steelers to make more changes.
“I want to see a change,” Daniels said.
Alejandro Gomez, 47, of Monterrey, Mexico, made the trip north for Sunday’s game.
Despite the loss, Gomez enjoyed his trip to Pittsburgh and was impressed with Rudolph.
“I think that the backup did a pretty good job at keeping us in the game,” Gomez said.
It’s time for the Steelers to look to the future, he said.
“We should be starting to look at making sure that we have a strong new quarterback for the next decade,” Gomez said.
Some fans still believe the Steelers can make the playoffs this year, despite losing their leader and starting with two losses.
“I still think they can take the (AFC North) division and make the playoffs,” Chris Murray of Latrobe said Monday at Jaffre’s restaurant in Greensburg. The undefeated Baltimore Ravens lead the division.
“I was impressed with Rudolph, but I feel bad for Big Ben. I think (Rudolph) can be very successful” playing with the first team, rather than the second stringers as he did during the preseason, Murray said.
Longtime Steelers fans remember that Roethlisberger became the starter when in 2004 when Tommy Maddox injured his elbow in a Week 2 loss to the Ravens. Amazingly, Roethlisberger and the veteran Steelers reeled off 15 regular season wins before losing to the New England Patriots and Tom Brady in the AFC Championship game.
Roethlisberger left the Steelers’ game against the Seahawks late in the first half, leaving it up to Rudolph to replace him for the remainder of the game.
Danielle Ringling of Latrobe, a bartender at Primanti Brothers restaurant in Hempfield, said she saw one distraught Steelers fan pick up lunch Monday “and he was beside himself” over Roethlisberger’s injury.
Unlike so many other times when Roethlisberger would shake off an injury and come back to play — the most memorable being when Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict planted No. 7’s shoulder into the artificial turf at Paul Brown Stadium in a Steelers playoff win in 2016 — Roethlisberger stayed on the sidelines and watched Rudolph steer the offense.
Kristin Gault of Latrobe, a waitress at Jaffre’s, was at Heinz Field on Sunday and did not believe the Steelers’ cause was hopeless when Roethlisberger did not take the field in the third quarter.
“I expected a win. I cried twice,” said Gault, noting it was her first time attending a Steelers game since Kordell “Slash” Stewart was quarterbacking the team in the late 1990s at Three Rivers Stadium.
“I want to see Mason Rudolph. You got to start somewhere,” Gault said.
Dave Brewer of Harrison City, who was taking a break Monday at Primanti’s, said he was “shocked” at how well Rudolph played against Seattle.
“He came out and he was throwing better than Ben,” Brewer said. “That kid’s got a cannon for an arm.”
John Corsaro of Greensburg, however, believes the season is essentially lost without Roethlisberger.
“I think they’re pretty much done,” Cosaro said.
“It sucks that he got hurt this early in the season. I hated to see him go down. He was great,” Corsaro said.
Brewer would not be surprised if Roethlisberger does not return to play again.
“I think you saw Ben Roethlisberger’s last game,” Brewer said.
If Roethlisberger can’t return to play next year, Corsaro said it might be a good time for the Black and Gold to clean house at Heinz Field.
“They’re due for a new coach anyways,” Corsaro said of Mike Tomlin, who took over the Steelers in the 2007 season and has coached them to two Super Bowls — a last-minute victory over the Arizona Cardinals and a loss to the Green Bay Packers.
Whomever is playing quarterback for the Steelers this year, Ringling is hoping that the losses don’t pile up because that is bad for business.
The day after the Steelers lose, “our sales go down,” Ringling said.
And on game day after the Steelers lose, the fans don’t want to sit around and talk about the game. They just leave.
But, when the Steelers do win, “they are partying all night,” Ringling said.