Throughout the early stages of this offseason, the conversation around the Pittsburgh Steelers has been dominated by one question: is Ben Roethlisberger still good enough to help bring the team to the Super Bowl? Most of those who choose to be vocal with their opinion have voiced strongly that they feel the answer is no.
But perhaps that’s not the way to look at it. Or perhaps it’s not quite the way the Steelers are looking at it, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk suggests, and I think he might have something here if you go off of comments recently made by general manager Kevin Colbert. But first what Florio said:
I have a feeling this isn’t gonna end well. Nobody wants to be the villain. They want to find a way to back out of this. But I think for the Steelers, the analysis is very simple: we don’t think the team around him is gonna be good enough to justify continuing this another year. I think that’s what they’re trying to figure out. And if they think the team isn’t gonna be good enough, they’re gonna say, ‘let’s just go ahead and remove the band aid now, let’s take the salary cap hit, and let’s start planning for life without Ben’.
In other words, instead of it being about Roethlisberger, it’s about the team. Think about the number of times that Colbert and Art Rooney II have said this offseason that if they could take the same 2020 team into this next season, they would.
But they know that they can’t. They’re going to have a hard enough time getting cap compliant, and they have a huge and prominent list of players that will be free agents, very many of whom they will lose, and without the cap resources to replace them except through the draft.
That list of players includes wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, running back James Conner, linemen Alejandro Villanueva, Matt Feiler, and Zach Banner, outside linebacker Bud Dupree, defensive tackle Tyson Alualu, defensive end Chris Wormley, and cornerbacks Mike Hilton and Cameron Sutton. This doesn’t include the retirements of Maurkice Pouncey and Vance McDonald.
That’s a lot of players to lose in one go, and they will lose the majority of them, even if one could make the case that a few of them are addition by subtraction. And this just goes back to Colbert’s comments about wanting to take care of the rest of the roster first before getting to Roethlisberger.
Do they want to see what kind of team they are able to field, at least through the first stage of free agency, before deciding whether or not one more go with Big Ben is what they want to do? Is that the delay? Or is that simply a way of them speaking around the truth? Personally, I think either case is plausible.