The Pittsburgh Steelers find that their 2017 season ended a bit prematurely, and are undergoing the exit meeting process a couple weeks sooner than they would have liked. Nevertheless, what must be done must be done, and we are now at the time of the year where we close the book on one season and look ahead to the next.
While we might not know all the details about what goes on between Head Coach Mike Tomlin and his players during these exit meetings, we do know how we would conduct those meetings if they were let up to us. So here are the Depot’s exit meetings for the Steelers’ roster following the 2016 season.
Player: Ben Roethlisberger
Experience: 14 Years
Well, things look much different for Ben Roethlisberger in comparison to a year ago, that much I can say. Around this time in 2017, still glowering from the bitter playoff loss to the New England Patriots, the two-time Super Bowl champion was mulling retirement.
Now even the team’s president, Art Rooney II, has gone on record and said that he has had a conversation with the quarterback, during which he expressed his desire to play for at least a few more seasons.
In my view, that significantly colors the way the offseason goes, as the team builds for a future that figures to have at least a few more seasons of a legitimate quarterback capable of putting the team on his shoulders. While Roethlisberger will turn 36 in early March, he is still playing at a high level.
Not that it started out that way during the 2017 season. In fact, the first five games taken collectively represent one of the worst stretches of his career, culminating in the first five-interception game he’s ever thrown.
But he improved dramatically after that, and especially in the second half of the season, where he legitimately put up numbers that would have been worthy of this year’s Most Valuable Player Award. Even in the postseason loss, he tore through the Jacksonville Jaguars’ secondary, throwing for 469 yards and five touchdown passes, with a lateral toss that might as well have been a sixth.
The most interesting aspect of the future is the fact that the Steelers opted to move on from Todd Haley, replacing him with Randy Fichtner, with whom Roethlisberger has an excellent relationship. How this influences minor changes in the offense and the quarterback’s role in determining that will be an ongoing development.
There is reason for optimism, of course, starting with the fact that Antonio Brown will be back. But there was a lot of change that likely contributed to early struggles. JuJu Smith-Schuster being a rookie, Martavis Bryant coming back in a drawn-out process, and Vance McDonald being a last-second addition slowed the pace early.
There is honestly no reason that the 2018 season can’t be the best season Roethlisberger has had to date. He has the line. He has the targets. We’ll see about the running back, which admittedly is a big deal considering the number of passes he catches. But there is plenty in place to work with.