In the NFL, quarterback is king.
If the most important position in football is in flux on your roster, you simply don’t stand a chance of competing year-in and year-out.
Fortunately for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Ben Roethlisberger is back for an 18th season in the black and gold, which will give them a chance to compete for a seventh Lombardi Trophy.
Despite knowing that Roethlisberger—who threw for nearly 4,000 yards and added 33 touchdowns to 10 interceptions in his first season back after missing all but six quarters of 2019 due to a significant elbow injury—returns, Bleacher Report slotted the Steelers’ QB situation at No. 16 overall in its QB situation rankings ahead of the 2021 season.
Although Roethlisberger put up a strong season in 2020 returning from the elbow injury, he did fade down the stretch as the Steelers went 1-4, eventually losing to the rival Cleveland Browns at home in the AFC Wild Card round.
That reason alone is why Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox has the Steelers at No. 16 overall, citing the uncertainty of what Roethlisberger the Steelers will get in 2021, which is undoubtedly recency bias.
“On one hand, Roethlisberger’s late-2020 decline could be a fluke. With weapons like JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chase Claypool and Najee Harris, he could potentially bounce back and have a career year. On the other hand, Roethlisberger’s late-season collapse could be a sign of things to come,” Knox writes.
Outside of Roethlisberger, Knox does not feel good at all about the Steelers’ depth chart at QB with guys like Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins behind the future first-ballot Hall of Famer.
“If Big Ben has finally hit the dreaded cliff, the Steelers could be in trouble. Mason Rudolph proved during the 2019 season that he isn’t a high-level starter—he went 5-3 but posted a passer rating of just 82.0—while Dwayne Haskins washed out of Washington in less than two seasons,” Knox added. “This doesn’t mean that the Steelers can’t still be title contenders in 2021. The Broncos won a Super Bowl with the ghost of Peyton Manning under center, so it can be done. However, the Steelers have to feel about as bad about their quarterback situation as they have since drafting Roethlisberger in 2004.”
The Steelers and general manager Kevin Colbert don’t feel bad about the QB situation, really. We’ve known all along how the franchise feels about Rudolph, which undoubtedly varies much differently from how the fan base and the national and local media views him. As for Haskins, Mike Tomlin has stated repeatedly how much he likes him, which aligns with how the Steelers scouted him ahead of the 2019 NFL Draft.
This isn’t a bad QB situation by any stretch. Sixteen overall feels pretty low, especially when looking at teams like Minnesota and Las Vegas ahead of Pittsburgh.
It’s also worth noting that Knox has the Cincinnati Bengals at No 19, Cleveland at No. 10, and Baltimore at No. 5 in his QB situation rankings.