For most of the offseason, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had been the clear betting favorite to be named the Comeback Player of the Year for 2020. The 17th-year veteran missed all but six quarters of action last season after suffering a cumulative elbow injury that resulted in his needing surgery.
Factoring in the stunning rise of the defense, the 2019 season showed just how valuable Roethlisberger has been to the Steelers, in stark contrast to the level of quarterback play that they were able to garner out of Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges, pairing one of the league’s top defenses with one of the worst offenses—and the worst in the red zone.
Unfortunately, its run as the betting favorite came and went like a beer can smashed over the head of a surprise WWE championship win. Since he was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and came out of retirement, future Hall of Fame tight end Rob Gronkowski has taken over the top spot among bets to be the 2020 Comeback Player of the Year.
Gronkowski is now the leader in the clubhouse, per DraftKings at (+200), while Roethlisberger is now down to (+350). However, he does remain comfortably in second place, as Matthew Stafford is a distant third at (+700).
The last time a Steelers player won the Comeback Player of the Year Award was in 2002, given to Tommy Maddox, who had been a prior first-round draft bust at the quarterback position, taken by the Denver Broncos in 1992. He started four games as a rookie, losing all of them, and hung around with multiple teams until 1998, after which he saw a resurgence in 2001 as the quarterback of the Los Angeles Xtreme, the first and only XFL champions.
Pittsburgh signed him that year and would be Kordell Stewart’s backup in 2001 before starting 11 games in 2002. He would got 7-3-1, tossing 20 touchdown passes (to 16 interceptions), and would lead the team to a big comeback victory over the Cleveland Browns in the postseason for a 36-33 win. You…may remember what happened against the Tennessee Titans a week later.
Since the league resurrected the award in 1998, it has gone to a quarterback 13 times, including in each of the past two seasons, to Ryan Tannehill and Andrew Luck. Between 2008 and 2013, all of the recipients were quarterbacks.
Gronkowski has already previously won the Comeback Player of the Year Award, in 2014, after missing most of the previous season, first due to a forearm infection that required numerous surgeries, and then ending with a torn ACL.
Should he win, he would be the second player to win the award twice, Chad Pennington having also been a two-time winner, in 2006 and 2008 (first with the New York Jets and then with the Miami Dolphins). Gronkowski, of course, would also be doing it with two different teams.