Ben Roethlisberger may be taking a step closer every day to being the personification of the ‘how do you do, fellow kids?’ meme, but the veteran Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback is still able to make connections with the young wide receivers he’s tasked throwing the ball to these days.
He was recently bragging about beating some of his skill position players in a game of Pig on the basketball court, including Chase Claypool, though the second-year receiver had a defense ready. “I think I worked out right before I went there, so my upper body was a little sore, so I missed a couple shots”, he told reporters after practice today. “Uncharacteristic”.
Claypool had a breakout rookie season last year with Roethlisberger throwing him the ball, recording 62 receptions for 873 yards and nine touchdowns (though he went 5-101-1 in the season finale with Mason Rudolph at quarterback). And he’s glad he gets another year with his guy.
“I’m definitely happy he came back”, he said. “There’s very few quarterbacks in the league that can come in and bring that savviness, that football knowledge. He might be one of two who could bring that knowledge and make the transition into the league easier and make everyone’s job easier”.
While Roethlisberger was always under contract for the 2021 season, there was genuine debate as to whether or not he would be back, in part due to the salary cap. His willingness to take a $5 million pay cut helped to ensure his return.
Roethlisberger led the Steelers to a 12-3 record in the game’s he started in the regular season, going 399-for-608 for 3,803 yards with 33 touchdown passes to 10 interceptions. But he averaged just 6.3 yards per pass attempt, by far his lowest mark over a full season in his career, showing the inefficacy of the passing game.
Change is supposedly coming with a new offensive coordinator, though. An emphasis of building a complementary running game that should help strengthen the passing game in the process. Continuing to build relationships off the field will only strengthen the connection on it.
“I think it’s a lot more friendly”, Claypool said of his personal relationship with Roethlisberger and how it has evolved since last year. “Less talk about football, more talk about just random things going on, more jokes being said back and forth, more fun”.
It’ll be a lot more fun if the Steelers can manage to stack a bunch of wins together this year, especially in the postseason. A lot of players on the current roster have never even experienced a playoff victory. The team’s most recent came in 2016. Even Joe Haden, the 11-year veteran, is still waiting for his first, as is Tyson Alualu.
By my count, only eight players on the roster have won a playoff game in Pittsburgh. The 2017 class was one of their best in many years, with T.J. Watt and JuJu Smith-Schuster being the biggest scores and remaining here (along with Cameron Sutton), but while they experienced a 13-3 rookie season, they were one-and-done with a playoff bye that year.