We hopped on a conference call with Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin Wednesday morning to discuss how it’s like preparing with a quarterback not named Ben Roethlisberger, and the challenges the San Francisco 49ers present for the Steelers in Week 3. You can listen to the seven-minute call here. The Steelers, who are 0-2, have been all over the news this week. First, they lost Big Ben for the season, and then they traded for DB Minkah Fitzpatrick, who will start against the Niners.
Tomlin said the Steelers have a great deal of comfort in Rudolph because of the way he approaches each day as if he’s the starter. So if he isn’t successful against the 49ers, it won’t be from a lack of preparation. He didn’t comment on the physical preparation because, at the time of the call, the Steelers had yet to practice. When asked why the Steelers gave Rudolph the job over Josh Dobbs, Tomlin said that it’s “based on performance,” and that Rudolph “he earned it. He had a consistent level of high-level performance that distinguished himself from those who he was competing against, and really the decision was easy.”
NBC Sports Matt Maiocco asked Tomlin what stands out when you look at the 49ers on both sides of the ball. Here is what he said:
“First of all, they’re creating a great deal of negativity on defense. They’re getting turnovers and scoring points. Boy, that makes you a tough outfit to beat. On the other side of the ball, they’re running the ball extremely well, so they’re not behind the chains. They’re controlling situational football, and that makes you a tough unit to beat collectively. That’s pretty clear why they’re undefeated at this point.”
Tomlin went on to talk about Nick Bosa and the defensive line:
“He’s been in some good situations. They’ve been in some good situations. Being up in football games. I have a lot of respect for him as a rusher, but I have a lot of respect for them as rushers. Not only the talented individuals in the group but how they work together. Dee Ford, and everyone else.”
He was then asked about his thoughts on Ronald Blair, but made it a team answer:
“I just like the way they use a large number of people,” Tomlin said. “They got a great rotation and everybody’s productive and fresh and playing hard. That’s one of the key attributes of what they do systematically defensive. It’s no different than when we played Seattle a week ago, and they run a bunch of defensive linemen at you. The 4-3 teams that generate rush with those guys primarily have to play a lot of people, and they need all those guys to be productive in order to play great, and obviously, they’re playing great at this point.”
The 49ers have seven sacks on the season by six different defensive linemen. It’s been Blair, Bosa, Ford, Arik Armstead, and how could we forget about DeForest Buckner.
The Steelers have done a good job as a team keeping their quarterback upright through two weeks. Pittsburgh is fourth in adjusted sack rate. First place? The 49ers. That could change with Rudolph under pressure. Big Ben holds the ball but is a wizard when it comes to escaping sacks.