An obvious choice to make but Ben Roethlisberger has been named the Pittsburgh Steelers’ “make or break” player of the 2021 season in CBS’ Jason La Canfora list of X-Factors for each team. For almost any team, quarterback will define a team’s success or failure but there are even more eyes on Roethlisberger knowing this could be his final year in the league.
In explaining the choice, La Canfora writes:
“Father Time is undefeated and he has been whipping up on this future Hall of Famer for a few years now. Would be quite the comeback if the QB can hold him off.”
La Canfora has been critical of Roethlisberger all offseason and has all but written him off. If that prediction becomes true, it’ll be tough for Pittsburgh to even make the playoffs, much less win their first postseason contest since 2017. Even with an improved running game, the offense will run through Roethlisberger and the passing attack. In a competitive AFC North, there’s little margin for error.
It’ll be up to new offensive coordinator Matt Canada to make tweaks to the offense to put Roethlisberger in better positions to succeed. Part of that means a more balance and efficient offense. In 2020, there was no run game, and Roethlisberger was asked to shoulder the load time and time again. There were moments where he pulled it off, great second half performances against the Ravens in their second meeting and their Week 16 win over the Colts, but Roethlisberger had his problems down the stretch and the Steelers lost four of their last five regular season games before being upset by the Browns in the Wild Card game.
For me, the make-or-break unit is the play of the Steelers’ offensive line. It’s a young, unproven unit with question marks left to right. How Chukwuma Okorafor looks back over at left tackle in a contract year, Kevin Dotson’s performance as a sophomore, if Kendrick Green can win the starting center job, if David DeCastro can bounce back, and how Zach Banner looks at right tackle. If that unit comes together and plays well, the Steelers’ offense should be top ten. If not, it’ll be a long-year for the whole group.
Around the rest of the North, La Canfora chose DE Jadeveon Clowney for the Browns, OC Bradley Bozeman for the Ravens, and QB Joe Burrow for the Bengals.