In a year when abnormal reigns supreme, the Pittsburgh Steelers offense is hoping to get back to at least one routine aspect: having Ben Roethlisberger under center.
Offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner said having Big Ben back after the quarterback played just two games last year will help ease the irregular aspects of the 2020 season.
"That might be the easiest question to answer," Fichtner said, via the team's official website. "Normal now becomes Ben Roethlisberger back in the huddle. He's paired up with Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro and some of those guys up front. That just gives you the normalcy. That will be normal. That's what we're used to. Just getting back to normal will be looking at a group of mostly experienced players and being excited about what this journey, this season, is going to bring."
Hopefully for Pittsburgh that "normal" doesn't also include Roethlisberger missing games again this season. In the past five years, Big Ben has missed multiple starts in a season three times.
Last season, the Steelers offense cratered sans Roethlisberger, with Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges unable to produce a functional product. Pittsburgh inexplicably declined to upgrade the backup position this offseason, which means Big Ben's health will be paramount to any success in 2020.
All reports from Roethlisberger have been positive as he gets his fastball back after undergoing surgery. The Steelers QB did not take Heinz Field with Pittsburgh's young quarterbacks Wednesday, coach Mike Tomlin told reporters Thursday, but added he has no reservations about Big Ben's status.
Without preseason games to at least test out his return, Fichtner plans to use the few practice sessions to gear up the veteran quarterback. The OC, however, didn't sound concerned about Big Ben being prepared for his 17th season.
"We'll have to take advantage of those game situations we can present for him against our defense," Fichtner said of practice sessions. "Naturally, the first thing is we have to get a feel for where he is, and his arm will tell us. It's not unusual for us to work him a day, then work him a half-day, then get him a day's rest, and he knows that routine. It's going to be a little bit different kind of camp, and so I think we'll have to play that by ear (in terms of) how he feels and how much he wants, because there are going to be times when he wants it all, and we're going to have to back him off. That's a good thing."