Monday, January 18, 2021

Steelers must break up with Ben Roethlisberger after AFC playoff bust against Browns

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Ben Roethlisberger failed to erase lingering concerns about his quarterback play in the Steelers’ shocking 48-37 AFC playoff loss to the Browns on Sunday night. Hopefully that will be enough for the Steelers to seek out his immediate successor in the 2021 offseason, whether or not he chooses to retire.

Before Christmas, before leading a successful second-half comeback in Week 16 against the Colts to help the Steelers win the AFC North, Sporting News detailed Roethlisberger’s physical limitations related to the strength of his arm – plus wear and tear – at the age of 38. Without a solid running game to lean on and struggling to push the ball down all season, resulting in poor air mileage, Pittsburgh tried to win as many games as possible by being happy with the passes. short to intermediate.

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But it put Roethlisberger in a position to avoid big mistakes in big games, knowing that big plays were harder to get. That didn’t happen against Cleveland, as Big Ben’s four interceptions in five team turnovers ultimately cost Pittsburgh in a high scoring affair.

The bad snap on the Steelers’ first possession that turned into a Browns touchdown was not Roethlsiberger’s fault. His interception on the second-to-last possession of the game was out of desperation. But Pittsburgh was pretty much doomed when Roethlisbeger threw three picks in the first 20 minutes of play.

The Steelers could watch their big second-half rally from 28 to make it an 11-point, big-numbers game (501 yards, four touchdowns, 110.0 passer rating) and overlook his terrible first half. -time. But that should only make them even more frustrated with Roethlisberger, as he was forced to pitch at high volume (47 wins out of 68 sackless attempts) due to his own early mistakes which helped dig a big hole.

Roethlisberger has expressed at some point in 2020 that he would like to return for his season at 39. In some ways, he came back strong from a lost 2019 season with a right elbow injury and played well enough to rebuild his confidence, taking advantage of his top young wide receivers and veteran tight end. He gave what he could, but in the end it wasn’t good enough.

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If the Capped Steelers don’t restructure Roethlisberger’s contract, they will consider a cap of $ 41.25 million for 2021. Releasing or trading Roethlisberger would cost the Steelers $ 22.25 million in dead money, but it would also produce a cap of $ 19 million. relief. A once tough decision should now be obvious: switch from Big Ben and roll with a QB on a rookie deal.

The Steelers’ first-round playoff exit locked them in 24th pick in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Their inability to make a playoff run puts them in a better position to secure a potential second-wave franchise quarterback to prospects in a solid QB class.

Roethlisberger will be entered in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He had a great career with the Steelers marked by two Super Bowl wins. His overall work makes him the best QB in franchise history, edging out Terry Bradshaw. He lasted 17 seasons – three more than Bradshaw – on hard and winning a lot for Black and Gold.

But Roethlisberger is more like Drew Brees than Tom Brady in the sense that there are tangible signs of decline in his game because of Father Time. In an AFC full of emerging young guns – including his Sunday night counterpart, Baker Mayfield – the Steelers must flip the switch to a young passer with a higher cap.

Consider Mayfield, all 25, to be the oldest statesman in the AFC division’s playoffs, where Patrick Mahomes (25), Josh Allen (24) and Lamar Jackson (24) will also play. Mayfield and Jackson are giving the Browns and Ravens a leg up on the rest of AFC North for the foreseeable future, and the Bengals with Joe Burrow are just around the corner.

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The Steelers have enjoyed a big quarterback advantage in the division for a long time, with Roethlisberger keeping Joe Flacco and Andy Dalton at bay and consistently beating those the Browns tried before Mayfield. The Steelers don’t want to suddenly be at the back of the line, this is where they are heading with more Big Ben.

With the way Roethlisberger is playing now, the edge is quickly fading. The idea of ​​stepping back a bit with a rookie passer might be hard for Mike Tomlin to accept, especially with a defense set to win now and great potential in the rest of the passing game. But the Steelers need to be convinced that they will hit someone, just like the Browns, Bills, Chiefs and Ravens have done at various stages of the draft.

Heck, 11th overall in 2004, Roethlisberger was the third QB taken (behind Eli Manning and Philip Rivers), and it worked really well for Pittsburgh, dropping 13-0 with him as a rookie to ultimately be consistent . AFC candidate and having two big rings to show.

Such a change is difficult, but big breakups are happening in this league. The Steelers can’t let what happened to the Patriots after their split with Brady scare them off. They must think they can do what the Chargers did after saying goodbye to Philip Rivers.

Roethlisberger’s expensive playoff performance against the Browns was not an anomaly. It was confirmation of the evidence that was working against his best game this season.

The Steelers need to see that and start looking up to a major replacement for Big Ben.



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