It’s easy to sit here now in retrospect and look back at the 2007 season, but little did we know it that we were witnessing the finest season running the ball that “Big Ben” Roethlisberger had to offer during his illustrious 18-year career with the Steelers. That season, he had 35 carries for 208 yards, with two scores and a 5.8 YPC. This seems like eons ago, as the last few seasons have featured a statuesque Roethlisberger in the pocket, whose game was predicated on a quick-strike passing attack. But how quickly people forget that in his heyday, Ben was considered one of the toughest QB’s to bring down, as his capability in the pocket to make chicken salad out of chicken-you-know-what as 300-pound defenders grasped at his legs was considered one of the finer aspects to his game. Also, at the 2004 NFL Combine, he ran a 4.75 in the 40, which is par for the course when comparing him to the current favorites for the starting spot, be it Mitch Trubisky and his 4.67 40 time or first-round pick Kenny Pickett and his 4.73.
This was encapsulated in that ‘07 season perfectly in the Week 10 game against the division-rival Browns in which Ben ran five times for 49 yards, highlighted by a 30-yard touchdown scamper in a 31-28 victory. His game at the time was a far cry from what we’ve seen in recent seasons out of #7, but it’s perhaps a preview of what’s to come this season as a new, more mobile, signal-caller takes the reigns.
Trubisky is viewed by many as the first man up when it comes to the starting spot, and although many people will speak negatively about him from his tenure in Chicago, the man does have a Pro Bowl and a career 29-21 record to his resume. In 2018, his banner year, Trubisky almost doubled Roethlisberger in rushing yards when he posted 68 rushes for 421 yards and three scores. Not only that, in his rookie season he ran for 248, so he definitely seems to possess a lot more upside, mobility-wise, and perhaps might even be a better fit for offensive coordinator Matt Canada’s scheme than Roethlisberger has been the past few seasons. In fact, just looking at the rush stats from him from 2019 through last season tells the tale, as the numbers read seven yards, eleven yards, and five yards, respectively. For comparisons sake, even the Bengals’ Joe Burrow, coming off reconstructive knee surgery for a torn ACL, ran for 118 yards.
Pickett also showed off his prowess in running to convert the chains last season at Pitt, when he was a Heisman Trophy finalist. Although he sported a low 2.5 YPC while running 97 times for 241 yards, he was more of a pocket passer as he connected with Biletnikoff Award winner Jordan Addison 100 times for 1,593 yards and 17 scores. However, make no mistake, Pickett can and will take off, and the ACC Championship game versus Wake Forest this last season was a prime example. In that game, he put his wheels on full display during his infamous “fake-slide” 58-yard touchdown run, where he put the defense on skates. Many critics talk negatively about him for it, but if you watch the game tape, he was literally pulling away from an entire Power Five defense for a massive gain before executing the move, so his mobility shouldn’t be in question.
This all comes together like a puzzle, stemming from remarks made by team owner Art Rooney II earlier this offseason, when he said the team desired more mobility from the position. Those wishes have been fulfilled, and the team now has not only one, but two at the position with the requisite speed. On an offense likely to be spearheaded by a running attack led by a revamped offensive line and stud Pro Bowl RB Najee Harris, this should come in very handy considering the team figures to be in a lot of tightly-contested contest. Unlike in years past though, instead of throwing a bubble screen to a receiver on 3rd and 2, and getting tackled for a loss, we likely will see some designed QB-runs that’ll feature mobility at the QB position not seen in the Steel City since the days of Kordell “Slash” Stewart. Let me know your thoughts below.