The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2021 season is underway, and they are hoping for a better outcome in comparison to last season. After starting out 11-0, they finished the year 1-4 in the regular season, and then lost in the Wildcard Round to the Cleveland Browns, ignited by a 0-28 first quarter.
They have lost a large number of key players in the offseason, like Maurkice Pouncey, Bud Dupree, Alejandro Villanueva, David DeCastro, Mike Hilton, and Steven Nelson, but they’ve also made significant additions as the months have gone on, notably Trai Turner, Melvin Ingram, Joe Schobert, and Ahkello Witherspoon. They also added Najee Harris, Pat Freiermuth, Kendrick Green, and Dan Moore Jr., all of whom are starting.
There isn’t much left to do but to play the games at this point. Even if they play them poorly. They still have a lot to figure out, though, such as what Matt Canada’s offense is going to look like in any given week, or how the new-look secondary and offensive line is going to play.
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked. There is rarely a concrete answer, but this is your venue for exploring the topics we present through all their uncertainty.
Question: At what point do the Steelers have a conversation about potentially benching Ben Roethlisberger?
Very few legendary players get to call it a career under exactly their own terms. Many don’t know how to listen to their bodies, or choose not to listen, and thus play beyond the point in which they can continue to be effective. Their teams, still living in the present, have to worry about their ability to win the next game. Sometimes this ends up in an unceremonious and undignified benching.
Many, many Steelers fans, so it seems, would argue that that is where the Steelers are now with the 39-year-old Ben Roethlisberger, who has not been, let’s say, overly sharp over the course of the first four games of the season. He missed three potentially big throws just to JuJu Smith-Schuster alone on Sunday.
But one part of the benching process is having a viable alternative. Do the Steelers have one? Mason Rudolph, frankly, did not look particularly good this offseason—not even as good as he did in the regular-season finale last year. And Dwayne Haskins’ lone preseason start was a bomb.
And the reality is that the coaching staff seems to have a higher opinion of what Roethlisberger is still capable of than—basically anybody else. They are the ones who make the decision about who is under center, so until they reach a point where they don’t feel he is their best option available to them at a given time, he is going to continue to start when healthy.
So the question is, at what point, if at all, does that conversation happen? What has to take place to spark that conversation?