Tomlin believes Ben Roethlisberger will return for '20

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  • By Grant Gordon NFL.com
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Just before the Steelers' loss to the Seahawks on Sunday reached halftime, Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's season had reached its end.

The veteran Pro Bowl signal-caller left Sunday's contest with an elbow injury and by Monday it was announced he would have season-ending surgery.

However, Roethlisberger released a statement that said, in part, he would be back in 2020.

On Tuesday, coach Mike Tomlin backed his longtime QB in the belief that Roethlisberger's days leading the Steelers will continue.

"He fully intends to come back from this injury and everything that we've heard, we're comfortable that that's a strong possibility," Tomlin said.

Roethlisberger's departure for the season is just one of many changes for the Steelers. Tomlin added that Minkah Fitzpatrick, who the team acquired via trade with the Dolphins, will play Sunday against the 49ers at safety and that running back James Conner's injury status dealing with a knee issue would be day-to-day.

When asked about the specifics of the injury and when Roethlisberger could be ready to begin rehab, Tomlin declined to get into too much detail.

"I do [know specifics], but you guys know I try to avoid getting into specifics in this forum," Tomlin said. "I'm not a doctor. A lot of those things will be confirmed when he gets his surgery."

Tomlin said Roethlisberger's elbow surgery, expected to be this week, was being "hardened up" in terms of an exact time.

This is Roethlisberger's 16th season and it's set to be the first in which he misses more than four games. A two-time Super Bowl champion and six-time Pro Bowl selection, Roethlisberger has been the centerpiece of the Steel City offense since he was taken in the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft. His injury comes on the heels of a huge offseason of change for the franchise, as Antonio Brown was traded to the Raiders (before signing with the Patriots) and Le'Veon Bell was granted his released and joined the Jets. Now, none of the Killer B's will take the field for the Steelers.

Roethlisberger made it clear he intends on his absence being only temporary, though.

"I am completely determined to battle through this challenge and come back stronger than ever next season," Roethlisberger's statement said in part. "The Steelers committed three years to me this offseason and I fully intend to honor my contract and reward them with championship-level play. I will do all I can to support Mason [Rudolph] and the team this season to help win games. I love this game, my teammates, the Steelers organization and fans, and I feel in my heart I have a lot left to give."

Indeed, the Steelers are going forward with Rudolph at the helm as the second-year quarterback will assume starting duties after coming in in relief of Roethlisberger on Sunday. In corresponding moves, Pittsburgh promoted rookie QB Devlin Hodges and, on Tuesday, signed former first-rounder Paxton Lynch to the practice squad.

"Obviously we're disappointed for Ben, you know from a team perspective, we have a great deal of confidence in Mason," Tomlin said. "One man goes down, the next man steps up. We're excited about this opportunity for Mason and we're looking forward to rallying around him and watching him meet those expectations."

Rudolph's days as the Steelers starting quarterback are underway, but the Roethlisberger-era in Pittsburgh hasn't yet reached its end.

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