“Coming off major elbow surgery, Ben Roethlisberger‘s play was inconsistent in 2020. Pittsburgh suffered a late-season slide and embarrassing playoff loss that coincided with some shaky play from Big Ben, and there were questions about whether the team would even bring him back. The Steelers have seemingly given it one more run with Roethlisberger in 2021, but desperately need him to play better.”
There’s no question Roethlisberger’s season ended much worse than how it began. That’s true of almost every facet of the team from health to run defense to sloppy play and their run game. But Roethlisberger was put in a difficult spot last season, completely lacking a run game that in part, forced the team to throw short as a matter of routine. Granted, he had real issues throwing the deep ball, limiting the offense even further, but there were large stretches of the season where he was the offense. Repeated drops by his receivers didn’t help either. Cut that number in half and Roethlisberger’s season looks at least a little better.
It’ll be interesting to see what Roethlisberger looks like even further removed from his elbow surgery. Last offseason was dedicated to rehab, learning how to throw again, and questions about workload and the state of his arm. No one, not even the front office, knew exactly how Roethlisberger would feel. But his arm seemed to hold up, though his knees were a troublesome issue.
To me, the biggest unanswered question of the Steelers is their offensive line. It’s a much different-looking group than a year ago following the departures of Alejandro Villanueva, Matt Feiler, and Maurkice Pouncey. Zach Banner is set to insert himself back into the starting lineup after tearing his ACL while Chukwuma Okorafor will presumably be flipping to left tackle. The team brought back B.J. Finney and drafted Kendrick Green.
Individually and collectively, this group is largely projection. Even David DeCastro endured a difficult 2020. Was that due to injuries and the pandemic or is he in the twilight of his career? Not only will the players themselves have to play well, it’s practically a brand new front-five working together. No unit needs to be more cohesive than an offensive line. It’s simply difficult to get a feel for how much better this new cast of characters will be. Even if they are improved run blockers, will they take a step back in pass pro, causing things to wash out? We’ll get our answers beginning in a couple of months.