Yesterday we talked about the fact that 21-year-old second-year Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster made an NFL.com list of the top 10 players in 2018 heading into their second season. He was the only wide receiver to make the list, but it’s not hard to see why such success would be predicted for him based on what he was able to do last year. The trading of Martavis Bryant also gives him ample opportunity to lock up his role.
On the other side of the equation is the most important piece of the franchise, 36-year-old quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Entering his 15th season, Roethlisberger got off to a rough start a year ago, but ended up playing some of the best football of his career by the time the season ended.
There are not a ton of players in the NFL right now that are in starting positions at the age of 35 or older, but even with that considered, it’s no surprise that the Steelers’ quarterback found himself among the entries of Pro Football Focus’ top 10 players over the age of 35 heading into the 2018 season.
The list, compiled by Austin Gayle, ranked Roethlisberger fourth, behind Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Jason Peters. The first two I won’t argue with, but Peters, while great, is coming off a bad knee injury. Projecting his worth as a left tackle as higher than Roethlisberger’s as a quarterback doesn’t make sense to me.
“Time’s ticking down on Big Ben’s illustrious career, as the Steelers’ two-time Super Bowl winning signal-caller has contemplated retirement multiple times in recent years”, Gayle began. “However, as long as Roethlisberger continues to take the field, he’ll be among the best in the league”. Yet not as good as Peters.
“In 2017, Roethlisberger ranked 10th in big-time throw percentage and fifth in passing grade from a clean pocket, leading to fourth-ranked overall grade (88.5) among quarterbacks”, the entry reads on. “He also ranked inside the top-10 in several of our new advanced accuracy quarterback charting. He has now earned 85.0-plus overall grades in eight of his last nine seasons under center, as well”.
Perhaps the crux of the argument lies in this suggestion: “while Roethlisberger’s supporting cast has propped him up quite a bit in recent years, he has still excelled in his own right and should continue to do so for as long as his cleats are kept off the rack”. Penalized for having Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell.
It really depends on which Roethlisberger shows up. He finished slow in 2016 and then dragged his first for the first several weeks a season ago, but his numbers from that point on through the end of the season were league MVP-caliber production. There’s no reason to believe that he can’t be the best quarterback in the league in 2018.