Ben Roethlisberger did not erase lingering considerations about his quarterback play within the host Steelers’ surprising 48-37 AFC wild-card playoff loss to the rival Browns on Sunday evening. Let’s hope that is sufficient for the Steelers to hunt out his instant successor within the 2021 offseason, no matter whether or not he chooses to retire.
Earlier than Christmas, earlier than he led a profitable second-half comeback in Week 16 in opposition to Colts to assist the Steelers win the AFC North, Sporting News detailed Roethlisberger’s physical limitations tied to his arm energy — plus put on and tear — at age 38. With no stable working recreation on which to lean and struggles to push the ball downfield all season leading to poor air yardage, Pittsburgh tried to win as many video games because it might by being short-to-intermediate pass-happy.
However that put Roethlisberger able of needing to keep away from massive errors in massive video games, figuring out the large performs have been tougher to get. That did not occur vs. Cleveland, as Massive Ben’s 4 interceptions amongst 5 crew turnovers in the end value Pittsburgh in a high-scoring affair.
The unhealthy snap on the Steelers’ first possession that became a present Browns landing wasn’t Roethlsiberger’s fault. His interception on the sport’s penultimate possession was out of desperation. However Pittsburgh was just about doomed when Roethlisbeger threw three picks throughout the opening 20 minutes of recreation time.
The Steelers might take a look at their massive second-half rally from 28 all the way down to make it a 11-point recreation and massive total numbers (501 yards, 4 TDs, 110.0 passer score) and overlook his terrible first half. However that ought to make them solely extra pissed off with Roethlisberger, as a result of he was pressured to chuck at a excessive quantity (47 completions on 68 makes an attempt with no sacks) on account of his personal early errors that helped dig an enormous gap.
Roethlisberger did at one time categorical in 2020 he wish to come again for his Age 39 season. In some respects, he got here again sturdy from a 2019 season misplaced to a proper elbow damage and performed nicely sufficient to rebuild his confidence, profiting from his top-flight younger extensive receivers and veteran tight finish. He gave what he might, however ultimately, it wasn’t ok.
If the cap-strapped Steelers do not restructure Roethlisberger’s contract, then they are going to be a $41.25 million cap hit for 2021. Releasing or buying and selling Roethlisberger would value the Steelers $22.25 million in lifeless cash, however it might additionally produce $19 million in cap aid. A once-tough resolution ought to now be a no brainer: Transfer on from Massive Ben and roll with a QB on a rookie deal.
The Steelers’ first-round playoff exit locked them into the 24th pick in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Their failure to make a deep playoff run places them in a greater place to safe a possible franchise quarterback from the second wave of prospects in a robust QB class.
Roethlisberger might be enshrined within the Professional Soccer Corridor of Fame. He has had an ideal profession with the Steelers marked by two Tremendous Bowl victories. His total physique of labor makes him the very best QB in franchise historical past, edging Terry Bradshaw. He has lasted 17 seasons — three greater than Bradshaw — toughing it out and profitable lots for the Black and Gold.
However Roethlisberger is extra like Drew Brees than Tom Brady within the sense there are tangible indicators of decline in his recreation due to Father Time. In an AFC filled with rising younger weapons — together with his counterpart Sunday evening, Baker Mayfield — the Steelers have to flip the change to a youthfuul passer with the next ceiling.
Think about Mayfield, all of 25, would be the elder statesman within the AFC divisional playoffs, the place Patrick Mahomes (25), Josh Allen (24) and Lamar Jackson (24) may also be enjoying. Mayfield and Jackson give the Browns and Ravens a leg up on the remainder of the AFC North for the close to future, and the Bengals with Joe Burrow are simply across the nook.
The Steelers have loved an enormous quarterback benefit within the division for a very long time, with Roethlisberger protecting each Joe Flacco and Andy Dalton’s at arm’s size and constantly lapping whomever the Browns tried earlier than Mayfield. The Steelers do not wish to immediately be at the back of the road, which is the place they’re headed with extra Massive Ben.
With the way in which Roethlisberger is enjoying now, the sting is fading quick. The considered sliding again slightly with a rookie passer is likely to be powerful for Mike Tomlin to just accept, particularly with a protection that is able to win now and nice potential in the remainder of the passing recreation. However the Steelers ought to be assured they are going to hit on somebody, simply because the Browns, Payments, Chiefs and Ravens did at varied phases within the draft.
Heck, at No. 11 total in 2004, Roethlisberger was the third QB taken (behind Eli Manning and Philip Rivers), and that labored out very nicely for Pittsburgh, from going 13-0 with him beginning as a rookie to finally being a constant AFC contender and having two massive rings to point out for it.
Such an enormous change is troublesome, however massive breakups occur on this league. The Steelers cannot let what occurred to the Patriots after they parted methods with Brady scare them off. They should suppose they’ll do what the Chargers did after saying a tough goodbye to Philip Rivers.
Roethlisberger’s expensive playoff efficiency in opposition to the Browns wasn’t an anomaly. It was affirmation of the proof that was working in opposition to his higher play this season.
The Steelers have to see that and begin elevating their eyes towards a big-time substitute for Massive Ben.