While it’s not unprecedented, the Pittsburgh Steelers are banking on a 39-year-old man still having enough juice in his arm and his legs, going into his 18th NFL season, to help bring them back to the Super Bowl, a championship game they haven’t sniffed in five years, and haven’t been in now in over a decade.
That would be Ben Roethlisberger, who took a $5 million pay cut in his 2021 compensation as part of a contract restructure that basically bought him one more year. While it hasn’t been explicitly been stated, it’s been strongly implied that there was legitimate debate over whether or not the Steelers would keep him or let him go, with a reduction in pay being a part of the conversation.
As far as what’s to come—in 2021 even, let alone next year—in the words of general manager Kevin Colbert, “who knows?”. But that doesn’t stop anybody from projecting how they feel things might, or could, play out, and one of Roethlisberger’s earliest teammates, Jerome Bettis, also recently weighed in on the quarterback as he is now basically in the same phase of his career that Bettis was in when they played together.
“If they can provide a running back and support Ben, I think you could see him another year or another two years”, he recently said on the Jake Asman Show, as transcribed by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I think he still has the ability to get the football down the football field. You saw in those 11 games when they were undefeated that he did a great job of getting the football to the receivers and letting them make plays”.
The Steelers, of course, have gotten a running back for Roethlisberger, using their first-round pick on Najee Harris out of Alabama, a topic on which Bettis has obviously also expressed his thoughts with some degree of enthusiasm.
“There’s no reason to think he can’t do the same things that he was doing, but on a very limited stage”, he added, referring to the gameplan of the early portions of last season, but in a more balanced offense. “If you ask him to throw the football 20-25 times, I think he can do that for another two years. But if you’re asking him to throw the football for 40 times a game, then yes, this will probably be his last year. Because physically, I don’t think him, at that age, is going to be able to do that consistently”.
I’m sure Roethlisberger will used anything he can as motivation, but it is true that they simply need to establish a healthier run-pass ratio—and doing so by being better at running the ball. There were too many times where the Steelers were forced to throw the ball, and you never want to be forced into a play call.