With the 2021 NFL draft now behind us we are now headed for several weeks of ranking season. That’s not surprising, however, as it has happened that way for several offseasons now. It’s easy content to produce that results in quite a bit of discussion. With all of that in mind, former NFL quarterback Bruce Gradkowski, who now works for Pro Football Focus, released his top 32 quarterback rankings for the 2021 season on Tuesday. He has his former teammate, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, ranked right in the middle at 16th overall.
Below is what Gradkowski wrote about him ranking Roethlisberger.
“Ben Roethlisberger proved his toughness by coming back at 38 years old after elbow surgery and helping the Steelers to an 11-0 start. But something just didn’t seem right during that hot streak, and Pittsburgh finished the year 1-5 in its last six games.
New offensive coordinator Matt Canada has a tall task in trying to figure out what will make this offense tick. Roethlisberger ranked last out of 36 qualifying quarterbacks on play-action attempts last season. He subsequently led the league in shotgun pass attempts (640) and pass attempts under 10 yards. He did a decent job of getting the ball out of his hand quickly, but it didn’t translate into many explosive plays, as the Steelers ranked 26th in explosive pass-play percentage (11.7%).”
Well, that’s a fair enough assessment of Roethlisberger by Gradkowski. It certainly included several facts related to play action, quick release, and explosive plays. Those are just a few of the things we have written about on this site about the veteran quarterback’s play last season since it ended.
It will now be interesting to see if Steelers’ new offensive coordinator Matt Canada can get a few of those metrics highlighted by Gradkowski going back in the right direction. Especially with an expected better running game in 2022 after selecting running back Najee Harris in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft out of Alabama. Will we see more play action from Roethlisberger? More of Roethlisberger in the pistol and under center? A deeper average depth of target stat? Hopefully the answer to all three of those questions is yes. Time will only tell, however.
As for some notable quarterbacks ranked ahead of Roethlisberger on Gradkowski’s list, I was a bit surprised to Matthew Stafford and Kirk Cousins in that category. The same goes for Justin Herbert, who I admit had a great rookie 2020 season. Overall, however, ranking Roethlisberger in the middle of the pack of the 32 quarterbacks that Gradkowski listed is fine. It’s now up to Roethlisberger to prove that he can still be a top 10 quarterback in 2021 at 39 years of age.