Over the last 12 months, Jason La Canfora has generally taken a hard stance against the Pittsburgh Steelers. In particular, QB Ben Roethlisberger. He kept in-line with those feelings in his 2021 QB rankings, blasting a scorching take of ranking Roethlisberger in Tier 6, the sarcastic “Good Luck” category.
It’s a massive fall from a year ago when La Canfora had him among the best quarterbacks in football. Here’s what La Canfora wrote in explaining the tumble.
“I could see the Steelers experimenting with a new QB by midseason. When you take that kind of paycut to stick around to try to go out on something other than the terms of that ugly playoff loss to the Browns, chances are things won’t get much better. Offensive line looks shaky at best. Lack of mobility a big problem. I just don’t see this going well and things have been trending down since 2019.”
La Canfora is coming in awfully hot there. It’s hard to know who or what he means by “experimenting with a new QB.” If that’s giving Mason Rudolph a chance to prove the first-round grade the team put on him or looking at what they have in Dwayne Haskins. But unless Roethlisberger is hurt or until the team is officially eliminated from the playoffs, which won’t happen by midseason, it’s very difficult to see a scenario in which Roethlisberger isn’t the Steelers’ starting quarterback. Sure, he took a paycut. But if the Steelers really didn’t want him back, they could’ve dumped him altogether and simply blamed it on the salary cap to save face.
There’s no question Roethlisberger has declined over the years. But there’s also reasons to believe 2021 could be better than 2020. The offense will hopefully have a better run game (it’s hard to get any worse than last year), which will take pressure off Roethlisberger, who had to become the sole source of offense for the final 75% of last year. And he’s another year removed from his rehab. Instead of spending this offseason learning how to throw again, he can focus on the details of his game and hit the ground running this spring. A fuller offseason program will only help, too.
In his ranking, La Canfora lumped Roethlisberger in with the likes of Sam Darnold, Daniel Jones, and Andy Dalton. Roethlisberger couldn’t even make the Tier 5 “Guys, veterans, and place holders.” La Canfora ranked Jameis Winston above Roethlisberger. Jameis Winston.
The only tier Roethlisberger finished above was the one set aside for most of the unproven rookie class: Zach Wilson and Justin Fields, though Trevor Lawrence immediately leapt to the Tier 3 class of “rising stars.”
Certainly, La Canfora’s ranking of Roethlisberger won’t please Steelers fans. I know we may wear our black and gold glasses and Roethlisberger certainly isn’t a top five quarterback anymore. But ranking him at essentially the bottom of the league feels absurd. But given the source, it’s not a surprise.