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: Ben Roethlisberger is still the best passer in the division.
Explanation: The AFC North is loaded up on first-round quarterbacks now, with Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson notching their first playoff victories last season. Joe Burrow was the first overall pick last season and showed promise, but still has a lot to prove.
The statistics simply bare it out. Throwing 33 touchdowns last season to 10 interceptions, and a 12-3 record. The Steelers scored 24 or more points in each of their first 10 games, among the longest streaks in NFL history, including three games in which they scored 35-plus points.
While his passes tended to be of the short variety, that is what Pittsburgh built its offense around. The fact of the matter is that it worked for the vast majority of the season. Some adjustments could be made in time for next season to account for some of the predictability that became an issue at the end of last season.
Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson both execute run-first offenses, with Mayfield carried by Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Jackson’s dual-threat capabilities certainly put him in contention for being the best quarterback at the position, but the emphasis here is on the passing game.
Roethlisberger has become among the most limited passers in the NFL, at least among starters. While he continues to attempt deep passes at a high rate, his efficiency in this area has plummeted to the point that it’s not really a viable threat.
There is some projection here, but Burrow is probably the most talented passer in the division right now. He has a lot to prove, but I think he will do that starting this year, building a very strong relationship with Tee Higgins.
As for Mayfield, he’s still developing. He had four different offensive coordinators over the course of his first three seasons. The Kevin Stefanski offense will continue to evolve, and he will evolve within it. Jackson is far from tapped out in terms of progress, either. He may never become an elite passer, but he could surpass Roethlisberger where he currently is — if he hasn’t already.