The votes are now in for 2020 and Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is seemingly no longer considered a top tier NFL quarterback.
Mike Sando of The Athletic released his seventh annual NFL QB Tier rankings on Monday and his poll of 50 NFL coaches and evaluators resulted in Roethlisberger being ranked eighth overall and the third quarterback in the second tier. Ranked ahead of Roethlisberger are Patrick Mahomes, Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Deshaun Watson, Tom Brady, and Lamar Jackson. This marks the first year that Roethlisberger was ranked as a second-tier quarterback in Sando’s annual rankings. Last year in Sando’s rankings he was ranked seventh overall but in tier one.
Fifty NFL coaches rated 35 veteran quarterbacks this year for Sando while providing candid evaluations. Coaches and evaluators were asked to place each quarterback in one of five tiers, from best (Tier 1) to worst (Tier 5). Once ballots were collected, results were averaged to create a ranking. The unanimous Tier 1 choices averaged 1.00, while the lowest-rated player averaged 4.30. Quarterbacks fell into the tiers in which they received the most votes. According to Sando’s rankings for 2020, Roethlisberger received 11 Tier 1 votes, 34 Tier 2 votes, and 5 Tier 3 votes.
A few of the quotes on Roethlisberger that Sando posted in his recap of the rankings are quite entertaining:
“Still afraid to play him,” an exec from an AFC contender said of Roethlisberger, according to Sando.
There are more quotes, however, and not as uplifting as that one above.
“I’m concerned,” an exec said, per Sando. “Ben is a little bit like Philip Rivers, a statue back there now, and there are durability concerns. Things have to be right, and he does not have the same weapons he had the last time he played for a long period of time. I saw him in the tunnel last season and, my God, he had that beard going and looked more like one of their offensive linemen.”
Yeah, in the latest pictures of Roethlisberger that have been circulating, in no way will the Steelers quarterback be mistaken as an offensive lineman. Roethlisberger looks fine and ready for the start of training camp. Also, Roethlisberger is far from being a statue like Rivers. Just look at his 2018 tape. As for durability concerns, that’s easy to say after he missed 14 games last season with a serious elbow injury.
“I think Ben is partially done,” a defensive coordinator said, according to Sando. “I give Ben right now a low-end three and he could easily drop to a four. I don’t think the name carries the weight it used to. I didn’t think he was great once Antonio Brown left. Can he get back to where he was at one time?”
Not great once Antonio Brown left? What? Roethlisberger has played all of 10 quarters of football without Brown dating back to the last game of the 2018 regular season. Let’s give him a few more games played without Brown before we throw out that kind of analysis.
Another defensive coach had a more positive take on Roethlisberger as he enters the 2020 season.
“These top quarterbacks, like a Brees, a [Matthew] Stafford, a Roethlisberger, they come back (from injuries) perfectly spry and healthy, Sando was told. “You are dealing with masters of the position. Ben goes out there in the first few weeks this year, they will be playing against defenses with no preseason games and these guys, especially if they have a veteran receiving corps that they are used to, then their skills become amplified. These defenses will have no ability to disguise their coverage, to work against the play clock, to really get into game situations where they can fool with the quarterback. This can be a little bit like sheep to wolves, these Tier 1 quarterbacks playing against these virus defenses.”
That coach certainly has a point and assuming Roethlisberger is healthy and ready to go at the start of the season, he’ll be playing with an offense that has a lot of returning pieces from 2019. Healthier ones, too. Mix in a few new weapons such as tight end Eric Ebron and there’s no reason to think that the Steelers offense won’t get off to a great start in 2020 and especially in their regular season opener against the New York Giants, a team with several new faces and a brand new coaching staff.
In summation, is it fair that Roethlisberger is now regarded as a second-tier quarterback? Sure, I think it is. Even so, I’m not yet ready to concede that Watson and Jackson should both be ranked ahead of Roethlisberger. Let’s see if those two quarterbacks can follow up their strong 2019 seasons in 2020 before moving them ahead of players such as Roethlisberger.