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: Barring injury, Ben Roethlisberger will be the Steelers’ starting quarterback throughout the 2021 season.
Explanation: The way things are heading, it is fully expected that Roethlisberger and the Steelers will renegotiate his contract in the coming weeks in such a way that allows them to lower his cap hit in 2021 without releasing him, to return as their starter. But if he plays poorly, it’s not a guarantee that he can’t get benched at this point in his career.
While it seems that most Steelers fans have become convinced that not only is Roethlisberger incapable of winning a Super Bowl, he’s also incapable of playing well, the reality is that at least the latter is not true. He is capable of playing well, and he played well for a lot of the 2020 season. You don’t win 12 games without decent play at quarterback, no matter how good your defense is.
There’s no reason to think that he won’t play at least as well in 2021 as he did in 2020, and if he does that, he’s not going to be demoted in favor of, say, Mason Rudolph, and certainly not Dwayne Haskins, or any rookie. Pittsburgh will be of the mindset that Roethlisberger playing well is their own path to a Super Bowl in 2021, and they’re probably right, if even that path is open.
The bulk of Roethlisberger’s better play was in the earlier portions of the season. He was more inclined to be forced into making bad decisions. Defenses also evolved over the course of the year to better defend him, which is the biggest problem. He even had a batted pass for an interception in the playoff loss.
If he struggles and the team is hanging on the verge of either making or missing the playoffs, don’t think for a second that Mike Tomlin won’t yank the rope if he thinks Rudolph, or possibly even a rookie draft pick, can give them a better chance at that point. We have to see how these other quarterbacks look in 2021. They should be expected to grow, after all.