Not only do the Pittsburgh Steelers need Ben Roethlisberger to play this season, they need him to play like he did three years ago. That was Pro Football Focus’ take on the Steelers’ QB situation in their league wide assessment of what each team needs from their passers in 2020.
Explaining what he meant, author Anthony Treash wrote:
“Back in 2017, Ben Roethlisberger was the third-highest-graded quarterback in the NFL. In 2018, however, it started to look like Big Ben was nearing the end of his high-end play — his PFF grade dipped nearly 10 grading points down to a grade rank of 15th among 32 qualifying quarterbacks, and his accuracy took a significant hit.
When throwing at or beyond the sticks in 2018, Roethlisberger produced the NFL’s fourth-worst rate of uncatchable passes thrown, ranking just above Josh Allen, Mitchell Trubisky and Josh Rosen. Then, in the small sample we saw from him in 2019, Big Ben looked even worse as he stumbled to a PFF grade of just 49.0.”
While there were valid criticisms of Roethlisberger’s 2018 season, including throwing a league-high four red zone interceptions, even getting back the Ben of two years ago should be more than enough for this team. Even average QB play last season would’ve vaulted Pittsburgh into the playoffs. They return with core pieces intact defensively and hopefully much better health on offense, returning JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner after injury-marred, forgettable seasons.
It’s also unreasonable to expect Roethlisberger to be asked to throw as much as he did in 2018. That year, he set a career high with 675 attempts, leading the league. Pittsburgh battled poor field position thanks to a lack of turnovers and splash plays in the return game, creating long fields for the offense to march up and down.
PFF ends their article saying they need Roethlisberger to revert back to 2017 form to “have any chance of staying competitive in 2020.” Not true. They were competitive a year ago with some of the worst QB play in football and the worst QB play the team has had since before Roethlisberger’s arrival.
Getting Roethlisberger back to that level would be ideal and put the team on a serious track for a Super Bowl run but any uptick in QB play should be enough for this team to make the playoffs, especially now that there are seven seeds per conference.