Whenever discussing Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s current state, the situation almost uniformly turns toward the second half and the end of 2020 as the jumping-off point. After all, they say this is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league. But does that tell you how he will play this year? Chris Simms for Pro Football Talk is not so sure.
Referring to comments recently made by Cameron Heyward, in which he made the case that Roethlisberger still has the skills necessary to help the team win, Simms said that he ultimately agreed with the defensive All-Pro, and that he saw a different player in Big Ben earlier in the year.
I’m not gonna disagree with what he said. I do think he still has the goods, too. But the big thing is…about the health, and I think that’s why the approach on the offensive side of the ball has to change. One thing that jumped out to me, in free agency, I try to go back and watch some of the players in free agency and just focus in on these guys. You watch JuJu Smith-Schuster a little bit, and that’s when it really jumped out to me when I saw Big Ben early in the year last year.
I went, ‘ooh, you know, wait, wow, wait, this is a different guy. He must have had something bothering him towards the end of the year, and not been healthy. Because the way he threw the ball, moved in the pocket, all those type of things. And I can’t remember specifically what came it was, but there was a point there in week five or six where he tweaked his knee a little bit, and you saw the change in play, so I’m with Cam Heyward. It’s about the team and playing a different way where they don’t have to put Ben in these dicey situations of getting hit or having to throw the ball too much.
Roethlisberger did injure his knee during the course of the season, and it did become a subject for a number of weeks, to the point where he and coaches had to answer questions about it multiple times. He tried to chalk it up to some arthritis, but there was an injury involved as well.
Simms also focused on the idea of the offense changing, namely establishing a presence in the running game with Najee Harris and a retooled offensive line. The Steelers’ lack of a threatening running game seemed to routinely put them in situations where they felt like they had to throw the ball, rather than choosing to. That’s when defenses can force you into mistakes.
Can Roethlisberger have a healthier season this year, and will that mean a better one? Can the Steelers keep him healthier? They didn’t draft a quarterback, so they don’t really have any savory alternatives to the 39-year-old future Hall of Famer in the twilight of his career.