While it’s impossible to truly gauge who the Pittsburgh Steelers will be in 2020 without seeing Ben Roethlisberger back on the field, it cannot be ignored that this team, which should look much the same as it did a year ago, did go 8-6 without him, with two of what many outlets have regarded as the worst quarterback performance in the NFL last season from Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges, both of whom were benched.
The theory goes, if you can add an elite quarterback to a defense that played at a championship level, re-inserting him into an offense that has quality skill position players and a quality offensive line that suffered from well-below-the-line play under center, then this has the makings of a very good team.
So far, the news has been positive, and we’ve even gotten to see Roethlisberger throwing a football, which he wasn’t expected to be doing yet at this time. Still, the Steelers have been rather optimistic throughout this process, Kevin Colbert even going so far as to suggest Roethlisberger can come back better from this injury.
“They see him every day, and they’re in touch with the doctors, they’re assessing him, they’re watching him, and they’re making sure that he’s taking the necessary steps to get back’, NFL Network analyst Willie McGinest said on a panel discussing the topic. “Ben is getting a little bit older, but I know this is something that he wants to do, come back and prove that he is the quarterback”.
“They definitely need him to come back at the quarterback position, because everything went downhill when he wasn’t there”, he added. “And they still were able to win some football games. So I would say this all depends on Ben’s health, where he is, his work to get back in shape and get his arm ready to go”.
I do think a key in this discussion is simply how motivated Roethlisberger is to get back on the field, for any number of reasons. Whether or not he is fueled by doubt from the outside, you know that he is the type of person who is going to do everything in his power to end on a high note. After all, that’s how his quarterback hero, John Elway, ended his career. He was devoted to getting Jerome Bettis to the Super Bowl. He has been a part of the script that he is looking to help write for himself.
Does it have to be all on Roethlisberger, though? Or was the quarterback play last season so far below the line in the hands of Rudolph and Hodges that we are overestimating how much even a mediocre season from him could be when considering the talent on defense and the potential of the skill positions that was largely untapped last year?