There is really no good time to need a quarterback. Even if you hold the first overall pick and there is a pretty surefire candidate coming out of college, there is never a replacement for having a proven, established veteran quarterback on the roster. There’s a reason that Joe Burrow this past season was the first first overall quarterback ever to take his team to the Super Bowl within his first two seasons.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are in a position this offseason to need a quarterback following the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger, who led the team to two Super Bowl championships early on in his 18-year tenure. They don’t have superior draft resources, the draft class is questionable, and there is really one potentially significant quarterback currently available, who comes with some huge baggage. So what do the Steelers need to do?
“Pray”, suggested Damien Woody during a segment of the Get Up program on ESPN recently. And he argues that it’s Pittsburgh’s own fault for being in this position in the first place. “Where the Steelers messed up is they held on to Ben Roethlisberger a little bit too long”, he said.
That’s going to be a popular opinion, for sure. I would imagine many, if not most, would at least say in hindsight that the Steelers should have released Roethlisberger a year ago, or talked him into retiring early. They did go 9-7-1 and reached the playoffs in his final season.
Pittsburgh actually went 12-4 and won the AFC North in 2020, though it was a very unusual season for the offense, which relied on a quick and shallow passing game that became less and less effective as the year went on, evidenced by their crawling to the finish line after an 11-0 start.
Roethlisberger tore multiple ligaments in his throwing elbow during the second game of the 2019 season, causing him to miss the rest of the year. He was not the same player when he returned. The year prior to his injury, he led the NFL in pass attempts, completions, and yards, going 452-for-675 for 5,129 yards with a franchise-record 34 touchdown passes and 16 interceptions.
With Roethlisberger gone, the only quarterbacks due to be under contract in 2022 currently are Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins, neither of whom have given any indications during their careers up to this point that they have the capability of leading a team to a title.
“Right now, you’re in a bind at the quarterback position. All these other teams in the AFC got these young guns, locked in, ready to go”, Woody said. “And here the Pittsburgh Steelers are with Mason Rudolph and Haskins and some second-tier quarterbacks out there, and potentially the draft. We don’t think of the Pittsburgh Steelers as a rebuild. They’re a reload type of team, but, who are they gonna pick up?”.
Realistically, the only move the team could make this offseason that would make them a contender in 2022 is to trade for Deshaun Watson, which I do not believe will happen. They could still make an effort to trade for Jimmy Garoppolo, which would be a significant talent downgrade from Watson, but would be much cheaper in terms of draft resources, and he currently does not have 22 pending civil cases accusing him of sexual misconduct.