Pittsburgh Steelers fans, as well as those of just about every other team, like to take their shots at Pro Football Focus and the manner in which they grade and analyze play on the field. That being said, I think this is one time that the fans and the site will be aligned.
In a recent article, Anthony Treash put together a list of the five teams who are in the worst situation at the quarterback position heading into the 2021 season. The Steelers were ranked at the top of that list, and parting with Ben Roethlisberger was suggested as their best-case scenario.
“Whether we are looking at the 11-0 start or the 1-5 finish, Ben Roethlisberger was not performing all that well relative to his counterparts”, Treash wrote. “He had just one game with a PFF grade above 80.0 on the year and finished the season with a 69.0 mark (24th). His downfield passing was inconsistent, as he produced the sixth-worst uncatchable pass rate when targeting the sticks. He and the Steelers were reliant on receivers making plays after the catch and on third down”.
It’s hard to argue with that if you watched the games. How many third-down conversions were made by, for example, JuJu Smith-Schuster fighting through contact for extra yardage on a pass that was thrown four or five yards short of the first-down marker?
And we saw what the deep passing game looked like. While you do have to factor in the number of defensive pass interference penalties drawn, the reality is that the Steelers had among the least efficient deep passing offenses in the NFL, and that was primarily on Roethlisberger’s downfield inaccuracy.
“The best thing to do in this situation is to part ways with Big Ben and begin rebuilding while taking a shot on a quarterback on Day 2 of the 2021 NFL Draft”, Treash writes. “On the bright side, they can still do the latter even with Roethlisberger returning”.
The Steelers will actually have a first-round pick this year, which they didn’t last year, but they will be picking in the back third of the round, making it pretty unlikely that any of the top prospects at the position will be available.
And it’s unlikely that there will be and 2017-like scenarios where a player like Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson falls far enough where they can make a very robust trade up to get their new franchise piece.
The two names that the article singles out are Kyle Trask out of Florida and Jamie Newman out of Georgia, their 43rd- and 84-ranked overall prospects (and 6th and 7th among quarterbacks). We are obviously at a stage with the Steelers where you can never rule them out of doing something with the quarterback position at any point.