Although it took a good nudge from the late Dan Rooney, former Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Bill Cowher was still the one who ended up drafting Ben Roethlisberger in 2004, following a 6-10 season—the last time they have had a losing record, thanks in no small part to Roethlisberger’s performance over the past 17 years.
The Steelers are off to a 4-0 start this year, something that Cowher never accomplished in his career, nor had Mike Tomlin up to this point, and, again, that has a lot to do with Roethlisberger’s play, averaging over 250 yards per game with 10 touchdowns and one interception.
“He is playing really good football. He’s not forcing things”, Cowher recently said in an interview on CBS. “It’s a very unselfish group of receivers, you don’t hear anybody yelling, wanting the ball. He has just been able to sit there and take what the defense has been giving him and I think he’s having a lot of fun playing the game”.
All of the five wide receivers the Steelers have on their 53-man roster are under the age of 25, and so far, the young pup, the 22-year-old rookie Chase Claypool, has been leading the way, reeling in 261 yards worth of passes on 13 receptions, scoring four touchdowns through the air. JuJu Smith-Schuster also has three, while Diontae Johnson and James Washington have also been contributing, in double-digit receptions for over 100 yards and a score apiece.
Cowher believes that the year that he spent out of football—or at least the majority of a season—was valuable for Roethlisberger, not just on the field, but off the field as well, helping to provide him perspective.
“Sometimes, you don’t appreciate something until it’s been taken away from you. What happened last year is, football was taken away from him,”, he said. “He sat on that sideline and watched a team that really transformed from an offensive team into a defensive team when they picked up Minkah Fitzpatrick, harnessed Bud Dupree and T.J. Watt, they got Tuitt back this year, he was out last year. Devin Bush is in his second year. It’s a very solid defense. And, all of a sudden, he sees these young receivers and he’s coming back into it with a renewed freshness and new perspective on things and a chance to do this again”.
That definitely doesn’t seem far off the mark, truth be told. And he has made similar comments himself. He has also talked a lot about how he wanted to come back for this team and how he is just focused on not losing games for his teammates.
This ‘new’ Ben Roethlisberger isn’t necessarily the most exciting quarterback the team has ever seen, but it’s been good enough to put points on the board and to win games. They’re averaging nearly 30 points per game, following an entire season of failing to post 30 points in even one.