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 will play beyond the 2021 season.
Explanation: Since it’s a conversation that’s back in the rotation after John Clayton suggested it, we present it to you here to weigh in on. Ben Roethlisberger is under contract for only the 2021 season after taking a $5 million pay cut, adding years that void shortly before the Super Bowl, which makes it slightly more complicated to do an extension — or at least greatly speeds up the process — should one come about.
The bottom line is this: no matter what his contract structure might now look like, if Roethlisberger is playing at a high level, he’s going to be playing in 2022. And there is reason to believe that he could play at least at the level he was performing in 2018. For one thing, he’ll be that much further removed from major surgery on his throwing elbow, which even the team expressed optimism about.
The Steelers still went 12-3 with Roethlisberger in the starting lineup, and he threw 33 touchdowns to only 10 interceptions, which is an excellent ratio. I believe that Matt Canada’s offense and the continued maturation of his receiving targets will lend itself to a more varied passing game that will be less predictable and more spatially non-rhythmic, to alter a Tomlinism, meaning there will be more intermediate throws, both in terms of distance and time.
And here’s the big fallback. Even if the Steelers don’t decide to bring him back in 2022 and he’s playing reasonably well, somebody else could sign him. Now, will he be highly reluctant to play for another team? Sure, but a ton of quarterbacks have done it at the end of their career, whether by choice or not, such as Philip Rivers just last year.
The offense was what it was last season because that’s what Roethlisberger was limited to. He even threw a fairly high volume of deep passing attempts, but his execution of those passes was toward the bottom of the league in efficiency.
He has become reliant upon the short passing game, to which defenses adjusted, and would remain adjusted going forward. That simply means that it’s time to move on. The possibility of a better arm further removed from surgery sounds nice and all. But there’s no grounds for believing it will make a significant difference.
And as for moving? We all know that’s not going to happen. He has been talking about retirement for half a decade. Once the Steelers cut bait, he’s going to be a stay-at-home dad.