Taking the pulse of Pittsburgh Steelers fans, or at least the subset of Steelers fans who are regular contributors to our own little community here, the bulk of the base has become resigned over the course of the last several months that the best course of action for the franchise is to begin preparations for the future—specifically, the future of the quarterback position, beyond Ben Roethlisberger.
Set to turn 39 years old in a month, and heading into his 18th season, Roethlisberger is coming off an interesting season in which he managed to throw 33 touchdowns, and only 10 interceptions, but with a very low yards-per-attempt average despite taking few sacks. It was clear as the season wore on that defense were adjusting to his playing style.
Needless to say, with the Steelers finishing the season 1-5 (though one of those losses being in a game in which he didn’t play), there are questions and concerns over whether or not Roethlisberger can give this Steelers team the play that they need to win, and how he would adjust to Matt Canada’s offense.
With all the questions surrounding the position, an increasing number of viewers have come to the conclusion that the best-case scenario for the team is for Roethlisberger to make the decision to hang it up. Pro Football Focus is on this same boat—and they also fear as a worst-case scenario that the team would prioritize free agents like Bud Dupree or JuJu Smith-Schuster over Cameron Sutton and Mike Hilton. Anthony Treash writes:
The best-case scenario here isn’t going to occur. Ben Roethlisberger ranked 25th of 33 quarterbacks in passing grade on 10-plus yard throws in 2020 — and he’ll be back on a restructured deal. Even with an altered contract for Big Ben, Pittsburgh will still have little cap space to work with, so it’s important they allocate what they have to cornerbacks Mike Hilton and Cameron Sutton over guys like Bud Dupree or JuJu Smith-Schuster. Sutton and Hilton combined will cost nearly three times less than Smith-Schuster and generated 2.5 times more WAR combined than the wide receiver in 2020. As for Dupree, the two corners generated six times as much WAR than the pass-rusher and will also cost less.
Anybody holding out hope that Roethlisberger will retire or, better yet, that the Steelers would release him, will inevitably be disappointed. There is also no guarantee that the team won’t strongly pursue one of their top free agents, like Dupree, as Art Rooney II suggested earlier this year.