Like any other team in football, so much of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ hopes for a successful 2019 campaign rests upon the shoulders of its quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, who is entering his 16th season this year, and the 13th working with Mike Tomlin as his head coach, who came aboard in 2007.
It didn’t take the duo long to have success. The Steelers won their sixth Super Bowl in 2008, their second season together, and would return to the game again two years later, even though they lost. Since then, however, they have only reached the Divisional Round three times, and gotten to the AFC Championship game just once over the last eight years.
Of course, having a great quarterback is crucial, but even the best need a supporting cast, and the Steelers haven’t always had that, especially on the defensive side of the ball, over the bulk of the past decade. They are hoping to have rectified that this offseason, even with the loss of his most accomplished weapon ever, wide receiver Antonio Brown.
Roethlisberger is coming off an interesting season in which he led the league with 5129 passing yards, but also 16 interceptions. He did throw more than twice as many touchdowns—34—which also represented a franchise record in addition to the yardage.
Tomlin, back in his home area to host his annual Hampton Roads Youth Foundation event, talked to Bruce Rader about the upcoming season. In the brief interview, Rader talked to the coach about Roethlisberger, fresh off of a new extension and having gotten the oral support of his superiors.
“Man, he’s unbelievable player. He needs no endorsement from me”, Tomlin said. “I’ve enjoyed his talents for 13 years and I look forward to enjoying them in 2019. And he’s wired much like I’m wired. We’re excited about meeting the challenges of 2019 and answering some of those questions about us”.
One of the qualifies most cited of Roethlisberger is his relentless competitiveness, even if it’s trying to hit the crossbar with a football from a distance, or trash-can basketball in the locker room. That’s the sort of wiring to which Tomlin is referring.
He showed no need for a recalibration in that respect last season. It would certainly be hard to argue that he didn’t ever give his all, even as he faced criticism for not forcing his way back into the Oakland Raiders game after he suffered a potentially serious injury that the medical staff was unable to sufficiently diagnose (which was a ridiculous argument, for the record).
Roethlisberger led three game-winning drives last season, including both games against the Cincinnati Bengals as well as the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The defense squandered another would-be game-winning drive in the Raiders game, and he had set up Chris Boswell for a potential tying field goal at the end of the Los Angeles Chargers defeat. JuJu Smith-Schuster’s fumble against the New Orleans Saint let another potential game-winning drive or fourth-quarter comeback slip out of his grasp.
Of course, he also threw a game-sealing interception at the goal line on a drive that could have tied the game at the end of the loss to the Denver Broncos. But even with that, I think the collective account of the above gives indication to Tomlin’s suggestion that Roethlisberger is wired to win at all costs, and I see no reason to believe that will be any different in 2019.