PITTSBURGH — Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has not had to worry about who his quarterback would be for most of his career.
Ben Roethlisberger was entrenched as the starter when Tomlin took over in 2007, and Roethlisberger was there, unless injured or suspended, until retiring after last season.
This year, Tomlin had a quarterback competition in training camp between Mitch Trubisky, rookie Kenny Pickett and Mason Rudolph. Trubisky won the job, but has struggled early, causing some to call for Pickett.
It has been a different experience for Tomlin this season.
“I’ve just been focused on being what this group needs me to be. That’s what leadership is,” Tomlin said. “Some years it’s centered in one area, some years it’s centered in another. I don’t make too much of it. That’s the job.
“It’s been exciting to work with new guys, particularly at a significant position, to get to know them in the way you need to know them in terms of having intimate relationships that are capable of producing unique results. It’s been challenging and fun at the same time. I haven’t spent a lot of time analyzing it. I just live it.”
Roethlisberger went 6-3 in his career versus the Jets, including two playoff wins.
The Steelers’ offense has not played well this season. The unit ranks 31st in the NFL in yards per game.
“We’re a work in progress but we’re a work in progress in a lot of areas,” Tomlin said when asked about his offense. “With each passing day hopefully we’re gaining necessary rhythm and understanding in terms of how we divide our labor up and what are the things that are important to us — how do we make our plays, what are the consistent places we’re hanging our hat. That can be said about any particular unit. All of us, if we’re honest with ourselves this time of year are finding those rhythms in the three phases.”
The Steelers lost one of their stars when edge rusher T.J. Watt tore a pectoral muscle in Week 1, but they still have another stud on their defense in safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. Jets head coach Robert Saleh knows Fitzpatrick could cause problems for his team.
“Phenomenal football player, very instinctive, not necessarily undisciplined in any sense of the imagination, but sometimes he is not going to do his job because he knows where the play is going, so he is going to do a little bit more,” Saleh said. “He’s an instinctual [player], he’s a badass, let’s put it that way, so it’s going to be a great challenge for the offense.”
The Jets elevated OT Grant Hermanns and LB Hamsah Nasirildeen to the active roster.