Now that the 2020 offseason has begun, following a second consecutive season in which they failed to even reach the playoffs, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen happen over the course of the past season, and with notice to anything that happens going forward.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends, such as an accumulation of offseason activity. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the summer as we move forward.
Player: QB Ben Roethlisberger
Stock Value: Up
Uh, duh. Even if he had a controversial haircut—and not just because of how it turned out—recent events for Ben Roethlisberger have been overwhelmingly positive in a very overt way. To put it simply, he’s throwing NFL-quality passes to NFL-quality players again (please spare the Ryan Switzer jokes (even though I know you won’t)).
There isn’t a thing that is directly related to football that stands to have a greater impact on the Steelers’ 2020 season than whether or not Roethlisberger is able to throw NFL-quality passes a bunch of times, and this week’s exhibition in that regard was proof positive that he’s well on his way toward being 100 percent ready for an NFL season when the time comes to suit up.
Since he last played, Pittsburgh has managed to assemble a Super Bowl-worthy defense, replete with talent at all three levels. You have first-team All-Pros on the defensive line with Cameron Heyward, at linebacker with T.J. Watt, and in the secondary with Minkah Fitzpatrick. Then you have other great contributors like Stephon Tuitt, Devin Bush, Bud Dupree, Joe Haden, and Steven Nelson.
You’ll notice that several of these names are players who have barely seen Roethlisberger play up close and personal. This is a defense that is better than pretty much any he has had a chance to play with since at least 2011, perhaps even 2010.
All he has to do now is walk back in and be himself. He’s got weapons to throw to. JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, James Washington, and now Chase Claypool and Eric Ebron on top of it. A competent passing game and a healthy backfield should lead to more efficiency in the running game, too.
The Steelers have things together better right now for Roethlisberger than at any point in the better part of a decade. As long as Roethlisberger can be Roethlisberger, this is a Super Bowl contender we’re dealing with. That as much as anything is why his new shaven visage is so significant.