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Art Rooney II on the 'craziest' Steelers season in recent memory

Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on

Published in Football

PITTSBURGH -- Steelers president Art Rooney II called the 2019 season the "craziest I've been around in over 50 years" after losing quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and a number of other starters to injuries, making it difficult to properly analyze the problems on offense and the performance of some of the players and coaches, including receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and coordinator Randy Fichtner.

The Steelers started and ended the regular season with three consecutive losses but made it to the final week before being eliminated from the postseason with an 8-8 record.

"When you wind up having three different starting quarterbacks, particularly one who earned his way on the roster in a rookie tryout camp, it's an unusual season," Rooney said. "Unfortunately, we couldn't keep it going the last few weeks, but at least we had our chance. Maybe with a little more stability at the quarterback position, we could have gone a little further."

Rooney, of course, anticipates that changing next season -- and the performance of an offense that scored just 10 touchdowns in the final nine games -- when he expects Roethlisberger to return from elbow surgery that ended his season after the second game.

In a meeting Wednesday with several reporters who cover the Steelers on a regular basis, Rooney also said the team is comfortable with Mason Rudolph as Roethlisberger's top backup when asked if the team would consider signing a veteran quarterback in free agency.

"Having your starting quarterback, I guess it will be your 16-year veteran quarterback, back on the field, I'm not going to call it a cure-all, but it will certainly be good to have him back and hopefully back playing at the kind of level the last time he completed a whole season for us," Rooney said.

 

Rooney could not offer a definitive update on Roethlisberger's post-surgical progress but said, "Everything we hear so far is positive, in particular Ben's attitude. He seems to feel good about it. He's still in the early stages of rehab, he hasn't been able to do a whole lot yet, but that's going to ramp up in the next couple months. We're anxious to see his progress."

Rooney failed to blame Fichtner for the problems the offense had when the Steelers were the only team to not score at least 30 points in a game in 2019 -- the first time that has happened in franchise history since 1971.

"I think any offensive coordinator in the league that winds up with three different starting quarterbacks over the course of a season is going to tell you that's going to be a challenge," Rooney said. "It is difficult to evaluate."

Rudolph and rookie Devlin Hodges, who started six games after Rudolph was injured and compiled a 3-3 record, had never played in an NFL game before this season. Rooney was asked if the team would consider signing a veteran quarterback in free agency to give the Steelers more experience at the position.

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