The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: The Steelers will have a healthy and successful Ben Roethlisberger back in 2020.
Explanation: Whenever a 37-year-old quarterback has surgery on his throwing elbow, there are going to be serious questions about whether or not he can return to play, and if he even manages that, whether or not he can continue to be effective. In light of yesterday’s now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t story on Roethlisberger’s outlook, it’s a fitting time to discuss the possibilities for 2020.
The only things that we’ve heard about Roethlisberger’s status since his injury that matter are what we’ve heard from Roethlisberger, either directly or as a source. Back after the injury happened, he said that he has every intention of completing his contract through 2021.
He has also recently told multiple local beat writers that he is ahead of schedule in his recovery from the elbow surgery. He’s even being going through a shaving strike that will end when he can throw again in a few months.
These things are never a guarantee, but Roethlisberger has shown the desire to continue to play. Suggestions that he has gained significant weight are unfounded and based on images from the sidelines in a heavy beard and thick, layered clothing. Medical procedures have advanced quite a ways, so there’s no reason to believe he can’t come back from this injury and play at his highest level.
That works in theory, and we’ve seen quarterbacks return to a high level of play after major surgeries, such as Peyton Manning, in the late stages of their career. But they also remain the rarity. And while he put up big numbers in 2018, some would argue that he has been declining already.
Aside from that, this offense is not the same as it was the last time he took the field. The loss of Antonio Brown on-field is something he hasn’t really had to reconcile with yet. Meanwhile, JuJu Smith-Schuster has regressed in Brown’s absence, and the line doesn’t look like it can protect him as they have in recent years. Even assuming he does play, it won’t be the same.