Now that the 2020 regular season 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 are seeing over the course of the season as it plays out. Who is making plays? Who is missing them? Who is losing snaps? Who is struggling to stay on the field?
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. 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 season as we move forward.
Player: QB Ben Roethlisberger
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: Though his early jitters were evident, he missed a couple of throws, and his comfort level in the pocket is still a work in progress, Ben Roethlisberger showed during his performance on Monday night that he is fully capable of being his ‘old self’ playing with his surgically-repaired elbow, which cost him the vast majority of the 2019 season.
Oh yeah, remember this guy? Considering the colossal significance of his return, we probably haven’t proportionally talked much about Ben Roethlisberger since Monday night’s game, during which he completed 21 of 32 pass attempts for 229 yards and three touchdown passes—the 50th three-touchdown game of his career, tied for the eighth-most in NFL history.
There were a few throws that Roethlisberger would surely like to have back, notably two open misses to Eric Ebron and Benny Snell. There were moments where he clearly felt uncomfortable in the pocket, feeling real pressure for the first time in almost a year, something that he openly acknowledged on Wednesday as something that he has to work on.
But by and large, Ben Roethlisberger was Ben Roethlisberger, and that is huge news for the Steelers, because a Roethlisberger-led offense with this defense is something that the team has not had in a long time. In fact, the last time they had a defense this talented from top to bottom, Roethlisberger was a much less polished player than he is now.
The best news to me is that there is still room for him and the offense to look better. He is still getting comfortable with Ebron, whom he only targeted twice, his other target being a key third-down conversion, and Diontae Johnson, whom he targeted a game-high 10 times.
As he gets more live snaps under his belt and more experience playing with some of these key weapons (let’s not forget about Chase Claypool, either), he is only going to look better and better. And the defense should provide him with more opportunities and better field position than the league-worst average starting field position he had in 2018 when the Steelers finished sixth in the league in points per game.