As NFL free agency approaches, the Pittsburgh Steelers have been the focus of countless prognosticators. A historically-successful franchise coming off of a December collapse, the Steelers entered this offseason $30 million over the salary cap with numerous key contributors poised to receive a significant pay raise on the open market.
In order to achieve cap compliance, the Steelers were forced to make some difficult decisions. The retirements of TE Vance McDonald and C Maurkice Pouncey provided some much-needed cap room while also creating new holes on the roster. DE Cam Heyward’s restructure brought more relief, but the Steelers offseason has always hinged on the $41 million albatross attached to their franchise QB.
Steelers President Art Rooney II started this offseason by admitting that the Steelers would not be able to keep QB Ben Roethlisberger without a restructure. After a Wildcard loss to the rival Cleveland Browns that saw Roethlisberger throw four interceptions, many assumed that Ben’s career with the Steelers had reached its conclusion. Ideas that the 2021 would introduce the Steelers to post-Ben life were snuffed out this week when the Steelers and Roethlisberger reached an agreement on a restructured contract that brought the Steelers to cap compliancy while also assuring that the future Hall of Famer would return to the Steel City for his 18th season.
The Steelers situation with Roethlisberger is complicated. Truthfully, it has always been complicated. Ben is a polarizing figure. In his Steelers tenure, Ben has rewritten the Steelers’ record book while hoisting two Lombardi Trophies. he has also found himself in unfavorable positions off of the field. As a Steelers fan, Ben always seems to put me in uncomfortable situations. I have confidence that he can shake off an arm tackle, but I hope he never again mounts a motorcycle. I trust his judgement when he leads the offense on a game-winning drive, but I hope he never leaves the house to celebrate his birthdays. Ben hate is real and the twilight of his career was always destined to garner gleeful responses from those who have eagerly awaited his demise.
Here Comes The Trash
That glee has brought some of the Trash Sports Takes that this site prides itself on exposing. Take this tweet from Former Jets and Dolphins Executive Mike Tannenbaum for example:
A hot take, for sure, but lets dig into Tannenbaum’s view for a moment. Tannenbaum was the GM for the New York Jets from 2006-2012 and served as the Executive Vice President of Football Operations of the Miami Dolphins from 2015-2018. You may recognize those teams for their bewildering inability in finding a suitable quarterback. Remember the Buttfumble? The players and coaches that came together to provide that unforgettable moment of football futility were brought into the fold by none other than Mike Tannenbaum.
If anyone should know how difficult it can be to find a franchise quarterback, its the author of this short-sighted tweet. Perhaps he forgot that his “4th best QB in the AFC North” won the division with a 12-4 record. Perhaps he didn’t realize that Roethlisberger had the most passing yards and TD passes of any AFC North QB last season. In fact, the season that Tannenbaum (and many others) point to as proof that Ben is no longer of an NFL quality (3803 passing yards, 33/10 TD-INT, 65.6 completion % 94.1 Rating) would have been the single best statistical passing season in the history of the Chicago Bears long and storied franchise.
“bcuz he sux. LOL”
There are many compelling arguments to the Steelers moving on from Ben Roethlisberger. Whether you dislike him personally or feel that the Steelers have too much talent to not have a contingency plan for a 39-year-old QB that’s only 18 months removed from reconstructive elbow surgery, you can make a valid argument for another QB to be under center for the 2021 Pittsburgh Steelers. Failed NFL Executive Mike Tannenbaum’s cleaned-up version of the Facebook comments section staple “bcuz he sux. LOL” is not one of them.
I know that Tannenbaum is used to having perennially high draft picks at his disposal, but the Steelers have the 24th pick in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Unless the teams decide to relive the 2005 draft and let a future Hall of Fame QB needlessly slip to the bottom of the first round, it is unlikely that the Steelers find their next superstar QB in this year’s draft. Outside of those rare Aaron Rodgers-related instances, it is exceedingly difficult for a successful team to transition to their next franchise signal caller.
Five seasons removed from Payton Manning capping off his Hall of Fame career by bringing a Lombardi to Denver, the Broncos find themselves with Drew Lock and a pile of unanswered questions. The Miami Dolphins responded to the retirement of franchise QB Dan Marino in 1999 by spending the next 20 years trying to replace him with a series of vagrants and high-plains drifters. The Chicago Bears are weeks away from making another series of ill-advised personnel decisions in hopes of finding a QB that can finally reach the unparalleled heights of… Ben Roethlisberger’s 2020 season.
Finding a franchise QB is the ultimate challenge of every NFL franchise and the Steelers have not been burdened with that search in nearly two decades. In the near future, the Steelers will face a season of uncertainty as Pittsburgh places their hopes on the shoulders of a young passer who may or may not be up to the challenge. While I understand the fear that Ben’s last ride only delays the inevitable future, I understand why the Steelers would give their veteran QB one last season under center. Either way, the last person I’m going to trust on the Steelers QB situation is a third-rate Executive who was never able to draft a competent quarterback.