Ben Roethlisberger injury: Mike Tomlin says there's a 'strong possibility' that Big Ben bounces back from injury

Mike Tomlin, without revealing the extent of Ben Roethlisberger's season-ending elbow injury, offered a positive outlook on Tuesday when asked about Big Ben's future as an NFL quarterback. 

Roethlisberger's 16th NFL season abruptly came to an end on Monday, when the Steelers placed him on season-ending IR. Big Ben, who sustained a right elbow injury that will require surgery, said in a statement that he plans to return to the Steelers in 2020 while also fulfilling the remaining years of his contract. Roethlisberger, 37, is signed through the 2021 season. 

"I'm not a doctor. And I think a lot of those things will be confirmed when he gets his surgery," Tomlin said of Big Ben's injury, via Jacob Klinger of PennLive.com "I'll probably wait until after that to get into specific details in terms of what they found and the specific prognosis for recovery.

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

NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported Tuesday morning that Big Ben will not undergo Tommy John surgery and that his expected recovery will be shorter than if he did have the surgery. Jake Delhomme, a former NFL quarterback who underwent Tommy John surgery near the end of his career, believes that Roethlisberger should be able to overcome his elbow injury. 

"Hey, I am not a doctor, but if that's what he has, I don't see why he can't come back from it," Delhomme told The Athletic's Mark Kaboly. "You were talking 12 years ago (when he underwent Tommy John surgery). They've perfected these surgeries so much now. I remember the doctor telling me as long as the nerve isn't involved. That's where the potential problems arise. It's definitely not a death sentence."

While Roethlisberger awaits surgery, the Steelers will now rely on Mason Rudolph, a second-year quarterback who will make his first career start against the 2-0 49ers. While some on the outside the Steelers may mail it in this season after Big Ben's injury, Pittsburgh believes that Rudolph, a third-round pick in the 2018 draft, has the tools to be Roethlisberger's heir apparent. 

On Monday, Pro Bowl lineman David DeCastro and running back Jaylen Samuels detailed the encouraging things they saw from Rudolph when he entered this past Sunday's game. Rudolph, playing in his first NFL regular season game, went 12-of-19 for 112 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in Pittsburgh's two-point loss to Seattle. 

"I saw toughness," Samuels said, via the team's official website. "He ran the ball on a big third down. He stood in the pocket, making passes, going trough the right reads. We tried to start him off slow, with the run game, a little short passes first, and I thought he did pretty good. He didn't get rattled." 

"He just came in with a lot of confidence," added DeCastro. "As a quarterback, you gotta be able to lead the huddle, have that confidence in there. He came in there, limited reps as a backup quarterback, came in there and did a good job." 

Rudolph, speaking to reporters on Monday, said that he is looking forward to having a full week of practice with Pittsburgh's first string offense as opposing to just getting first team reps on Wednesday, Big Ben's typical rest day. Rudolph also exuded confidence as he prepares to face the 2-0 49ers in San Francisco. 

"I'm excited," Rudolph said of his opportunity. "It's a sucky circumstance with a leader and a good friend going down, but he would want me to step up and try to lead to the best of my ability. That's what I'm going to do." 

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