Former Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor had already stated his opinion earlier in the offseason that he believes the organization is making a mistake by forestalling the inevitable, keeping quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for one more season, believing that they are holding themselves back with their refusal to move on.
“We measure success off of winning or hoisting Lombardi Trophies,” he said. “That hasn’t been the case. And how I look at things now, not only as a player, but I look at things like a general manager. Like, what would I do if I’m Kevin Colbert?”
Speaking to Dave Dameshek on the Minus 3 podcast, he talked especially about the growing young quarterbacks in the division, and how the likes of Lamar Jackson, Baker Mayfield, and Joe Burrow are quickly taking them beyond the Steelers, while Pittsburgh is willingly giving itself a delayed start. So what would he do? Dameshek asked him.
“You go on and put in Mason Rudolph or Dwayne Haskins, you let them two boys fight it out right now, and may the best man win,” he said. “Now they’re gonna get experience. And the reason I’m saying this, you’re given them experience, now you’re not holding the organization back off the decision-making you decided to make.”
— Minus Three Podcast (@MinusThreePod) April 14, 2021
“Then on top of that, they don’t have a bad defense,” he added. “Them boys got a good defense right now. So you might as well get a young quarterback in right now with a good defense, don’t ask him to do too much, go out and tighten up your offensive line, get you a running back or two, now we got action.”
Of course, if the belief isn’t that either Rudolph or Haskins are your future, then the only benefit of playing one of them over Roethlisberger is the idea that it will result in the Steelers finishing with a worse record than they would otherwise. Which by consequence, would help afford them a better draft pick, which would help them draft their next franchise quarterback.
The question is, could either of them even tank enough? The Steelers went 8-6 with Rudolph and Devlin Hodges starting in 2019 and only narrowly missed the playoffs. They still finished with the 18th overall draft pick, which they had traded to the Miami Dolphins.
Personally speaking, I don’t know if I’m really constitutionally capable of ever getting on board with the concept of ‘tanking,’ the idea that losing in one season, or over a period of seasons, to acquire better resources, leads to building a better roster.
It works in theory, and maybe even in practice. But it’s a lot to ask professionals to basically lose on purpose. Or rather, tell them that you’re actively trying to lose on purpose by not surrounding them with appropriate resources.