With training camp finally around the corner, and perhaps actually feeling as though it will actually happen, football ‘activity’ is beginning the ramp up in terms of content produced by a variety of outlets, such as CBS Sports. Yesterday, contributor Jeff Kerr published a list ranking the top 10 quarterback/coach duos entering the 2020 season.
The Pittsburgh Steelers’ pairing of Ben Roethlisberger and Mike Tomlin cracked the list, but not very high up, placing eighth. They did finish ahead of Jared Goff and Sean McVay of the Rams and Aaron Rodgers and Matt LaFleur of the Packers. Kerr writes:
This duo’s ranking is based more on reputation and longevity than recent performance, but that’s not Roethlisberger or Tomlin’s fault. The Steelers likely would have made the playoffs if Roethlisberger didn’t injure his elbow in Week 2 of last season and miss the final 14 games after getting surgery.
Let’s look at the season prior, when Roethlisberger led the NFL with 5,129 passing yards and threw a career-high 34 TD — at the age of 36. That was in his first season with Randy Fichtner (who calls the plays) as the offensive coordinator.
Tomlin and Roethlisberger have accomplished plenty in their 13 seasons together, compiling a 115-60-1 record (.653 winning percentage), which includes six AFC North titles, two Super Bowl appearances (winning Super Bowl XLIII), and an 8-7 record in the postseason. In turn, Roethlisberger has earned six Pro Bowl appearances, led the NFL in passing yards twice, and finished with a passer rating over 100 three times.
Certainly it’s a resume that could be worth a higher ranking, but the duo did go 0-2 in two starts together last season and it’s unclear how the 38-year-old Roethlisberger will respond to the elbow surgery. Not to mention the Steelers are just 3-5 in the postseason since the Super Bowl XLV loss in 2011.
Rosethlisberger could still perform at a high level and the Steelers make a return to the postseason, elevating the status of himself and Tomlin for 2021. There are just too many question marks heading into 2020 to elevate their ranking.
Unsurprisingly, the Kansas City Chiefs claimed the top spot on the list with Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid, representing the defending Super Bowl champions. Drew Brees and Sean Payton were second, followed by Russell Wilson and Peter Carroll for the Seahawks, Lamar Jackson and John Harbaugh in Baltimore, Carson Wentz and Doug Peterson for the Eagles, Jimmy Garoppolo and Kyle Shanahan for the 49ers, and Deshaun Watson and Bill O’Brien for the Texans.
What is your take on the Steelers’ positioning on this list? One could argue that Tomlin’s performance without Roethlisberger strengthens his cause, and he is certainly more noteworthy than somebody like O’Brien, but the obvious questions surrounding Roethlisberger’s return make it hard to place.