Is it Ben Roethlisberger, or is it everything around Ben Roethlisberger? This seems to be the dichotomy forming around the Pittsburgh Steelers and the back-and-forth of opinions regarding their ability to succeed, particularly on offense, in 2021.
There are those who simply believe that Roethlisberger is no longer a viable option at quarterback, full stop. He’s just not good enough, and they can’t win without him no matter what they surround him with and what changes they can make. As was the position of the panel on ESPN’s NFL Live segment, though, it’s more about the cast.
“Football is very simple in regards to the Pittsburgh Steelers”, Marcus Spears said; “if you can’t block nobody, you ain’t winning a damn thing. If you can’t block, and you can’t run, that is not a recipe for a Lombardi or any type of success”.
The Steelers finished ranked 32nd in rushing last season, both in total yardage and in yards per attempt, but have made substantial changes both on the line and at running back, and in the coaching staff, including a new offensive coordinator. They’re hoping these changes are sufficient, but they still need a baseline level of performance from their quarterback.
“I don’t think Big Ben is done”, Spears said. “I think Big Ben is serviceable. If you’re looking for Ben Roethlisberger of old, he’s not there anymore, but he’s a very serviceable quarterback in this league when you start talking about what’s between his ears and his experience playing this game. We’ve seen older quarterbacks be insulated with the talent around them to not have to produce at the levels what we had grown accustomed to them producing”.
Spears continued to emphasize the offensive line and the running game, while Mina Kimes pointed to other changes as key, such as the promotion of Matt Canada to offensive coordinator. “There are things that Matt Canada can do to make the offense more efficient”, she said, “by making it less predictable”.
“We know from his college days that he loves using pre-snap motion. We know that he’s gonna use Najee Harris as a pass-catcher”, she added. “I think we’d want to see him use a bit more play action, diversity in the offense, maybe get Ben under center a little bit. If Ben Roethlisberger is saying he’s willing to evolve, they’ve got to be willing to make all these changes, because what we saw last season at the end of the year was an offense that was, frankly, stale”.
All of these ideas have been bandied about, but ultimately, the proof will be in the pudding, which is the early-game script. I think we can safely conjecture that they’ll be doing motion, but as far as reversing the trend of their under-center play and play-action passing and things of that nature, that’s a tougher sell.