The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: Ben Roethlisberger is still very much capable of winning a shootout if necessary.
Explanation: There has been a lot of discussion recently about the Steelers’ passing game and how much of it has come close to the line of scrimmage. Ben Roethlisberger said on Wednesday that he’d like to think he can still win a shootout if they have to, but they are winning right now and it hasn’t come up.
Roethlisberger won shootouts or was competitive in them before the defense gave up a final possession score during the 2018 season, and the manner in which he is playing is not substantially different from that year. The biggest deviation has been the volume. By this point in that previous year, he had already attempted about 50 more passes than he has this year.
In terms of the deep passing game, he does have seven deep connections this year, including four touchdowns and one interception, which was admittedly a boneheaded play, but which happened back in week two. Only five quarterbacks who haven’t played in more games than he has so far this season have more deep completions right now.
And shootouts aren’t just about throwing deep. He has been efficient in getting the ball out of his hands and into those of his playmakers. A big percentage of his yardage is coming after the catch because he is enabling that to happen.
It’s true that Roethlisberger has talented targets to throw to, but so far he hasn’t really shown that he is going to go toe-to-toe with any quarterback in the league and match them point for point, the closest challenge he’s had so far being the Texans game.
When he’s playing the Buffalo Bills later this season or even the Tennessee Titans this weekend, would he be able to put up 35-40 points if the running game isn’t working, the game is consistently close, and he has to play from behind? Can he avoid the mistakes that he has made in the past in forcing throws, all on a surgically-repaired elbow? He’s attempting fewer passes per game than he has in years, so he hasn’t been pushing himself. What if he has to throw 50 times?