In the olden days of football, the 20s and 30s, there were player-coaches. Rosters were smaller, talent was scarcer, and if you could pay one guy to play and run the team, all the better. Player-coaches are a relic from long ago but in some ways, Ben Roethlisberger’s veteran savvy is a reminder of that era. Joe Haden explained what Roethlisberger brings to the team beyond physical ability.
“I think he’s playing at the top of his game,” Haden told reporters via the team website. “He’s a coach out there on the field. He understands. He’s been in so many different situations. He just gets it.”
Few players have played football as long as Roethlisberger has. Earlier this year, he surpassed Mike Webster for most games played as a Steeler. And to the best of my knowledge, no one’s ever spent 17 years in a black and gold uniform like Roethlisberger has. That puts him on a level unlike any other in franchise history. Virtually no situation is new to him. And in end-of-half/end-of-game situations, the coaches let Roethlisberger run the show, usually ending in points for the offense.
It’s a rare dynamic between the veteran in Ben throwing to a ton of young, new faces.
“Having so much talent around him. Young talent of dudes that really love our team. Beause we just got a bunch of young dudes that are grinders. Dudes that just want to be great. Dudes that want to make name for themselves in the league. Not too much talking, they’re just workers.”
That includes guys like rookie Chase Claypool, who exploded with a four-touchdown performance last week. Roethlisberger specifically has praised his football IQ and he’s shown maturity and an excellent work ethic to hop on the moving train after losing all the spring and most of the summer. James Washington is as quiet as they come for the position, Diontae Johnson doesn’t say a whole lot, and while JuJu Smith-Schuster is clearly the court jester of the group, he knows when to get serious about the game too.
The offensive line is a mix and match of veterans and youngsters. Alejandro Villanueva, Matt Feiler, Maurkice Pouncey, and David DeCastro part of the former with Kevin Dotson and Chukwuma Okorafor in the latter camp. Haden spoke about that group too.
“And then we have that veteran offensive line. Pouncey. Villanueva. DeCastro. These dudes are legitimate vets, you know? I think just it all coming together. Ben’s playing lights out ball and he’s out there comfortable, controlled and just running off office very, very well.”
As we said before the season, the offense – and the defense – will look a lot different in 2021. This is the group of guys to win a Super Bowl with. They have a franchise quarterback, and part-time coach, leading the way.