The seemingly endless cycle of hot takes on Ben Roethlisberger appear to be ramping up in the last few days, thanks to an interesting comment from new offensive coordinator Matt Canada.
Canada, speaking to the media on Tuesday, stated that “we’re going to do what Ben wants to do and how Ben wants to do it,” according to ESPN’s Brooke Pryor.
That could be a bit alarming for people to read, especially those who believe Roethlisberger was the reason the offense faltered last season and should’t have been brought back in 2021. However, it’s smart of Canada to come out and say this, showing he’s willing to do whatever it takes to work with Roethlisberger and make the 39-year-old quarterback comfortable in his system.
Canada’s comments do not mean Roethlisberger is the one calling the shots and dictating how the offense will look. Instead, it means Canada will work with what Roethlisberger is most comfortable with in the new offensive scheme, at least early in the season.
However, those comments have been strewn around the internet in the following days and twisted into this narrative that Roethlisberger is difficult to work with and is not open to the things that make Canada’s system what it is. That’s not the case.
NFL.com’s Jim Trotter seems to not understand that, stating in his quarterback translator piece Thursday that if Roethlisberger isn’t real with himself and where he’s at in his career, it could be a long season for the Steelers and Canada.
Trotter, who tries to piece together what comments from (and about) quarterbacks actually mean, seems to have taken a big swing and a miss here with his take on Canada’s comments about Roethlisberger ahead of the 2021 season.
Here’s what Trotter thinks Canada’s comments meant.
“We know Ben is not the player he once was, and he’s extremely sensitive to criticism that his game and his arm strength have slipped since the 2019 elbow surgery, so we have to keep him engaged by consistently stressing that he’s the fuel that makes the offense go, even though rookie running back Najee Harris will be the focal point.”
If Trotter actually thinks that’s what Canada meant…yikes. Nowhere in Canada’s comments about doing “what Ben wants to do” did I take away that Roethlisberger is sensitive to criticism about his game or his arm strength, nor did I take away that Ben needs to be consistently engaged and stressed to that he’s the fuel that makes the offense go. At this point in his career, Roethlisberger knows he’s the straw that stirs the drink offensively. The 2019 season was enough proof in its own right. Adding a piece like Najee Harris is something Roethlisberger has welcomed since day one, knowing that an improved rushing attack and a star running back behind him makes his job easier.
“There is a reason Canada also told the media he had a directive from ownership, the front office and coach Mike Tomlin to run the football, and that’s because Roethlisberger can no longer carry an offense by himself,” Trotter writes. “He has enjoyed an exceptional career that figures to land him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but if the veteran QB isn’t real with himself that the offense no longer runs through him, it will be a long year for Canada and the Steelers.”
Again, at this point Roethlisberger knows he can’t do it all himself. The way last season ended was further proof that he needs balance around him, so I’m not sure why Trotter felt the need to take a shot, saying the future Hall of Famer needed to be real with himself regarding the offense no longer running through him.
Will Roethlisberger have to attempt north of 600 passes again in 2021? Let’s hope not. But to say the offense no longer runs through him is foolish. This offense will go as he goes. If he’s back to early 2020 levels, this offense will be pretty darn good. If he’s back-half-of-2020 Roethlisberger, this offense will once again struggle, run game improvement be damned.
Trotter’s comments just adds fuel to Roethlisberger’s fire to show he can still play at a high level.