Did the Steelers sign Haskins because Roethlisberger is retiring?

Dwayne Haskins #7 of the Washington Football Team. (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)
Dwayne Haskins #7 of the Washington Football Team. (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images) /

The Steelers recently added a former first-round quarterback. Did Pittsburgh sign Dwayne Haskins because Ben Roethlisberger is retiring? 

Father Time gains on everybody. Omitting the enduring marvels that are Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, the NFL is, all of a sudden, witnessing a changing of the passing guard. In the AFC alone, all four of the conference’s starting quarterbacks during the Divisional Round were 25 years or younger.

League icons such as Philip Rivers and, likely, Drew Brees are hanging their cleats up and applying for their pension benefits after recent playoff defeats, clearing way for a new generation of triggermen to carry the torch.

Not even factoring in the 68 attempts in the AFC Wild Card against Cleveland, a 38-year-old Ben Roethlisberger tossed a whopping 608 passes for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2020, tied for the second-most in a single season in his acclaimed career. The total was more than anyone in 2020 except for Atlanta’s Matt Ryan (626) and the aforementioned Brady (610).

Still, Roethlisberger placed only 16th in total passing yards (3,803). His 6.3 yards per attempt ranked 29th, behind even Dallas’ Andy Dalton and San Francisco’s Nick Mullens.

Despite the lack of a capable ground game, and the resulting need to lean on the air attack, Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers’ passing production was pedestrian. Combine that with the late-season collapse and another early postseason exit, many are left to ponder the course of Pittsburgh’s offense.

The Steelers added former Washington Football Team quarterback Dwayne Haskins on a one-year pact Thursday, further raising the question; Will Big Ben be back for the 2021 campaign?

Haskins may end up being nothing more than a trial run, but the 23-year-old’s case is an abnormality. It’s not every day that a quarterback so recently judged to be a first-round talent hits the free-agent market with such a steeply discounted price tag.

A Heisman Trophy finalist and third-team Associated Press All-American in his lone season starting at Ohio State, Haskins should become the option for the Steelers should Roethlisberger walk away. He flourished in the Buckeyes’ scheme, directed by Urban Meyer. He passed for  4,831 yards and 50 scores, both Big Ten conference records. His 54 touchdowns accounted for were also an all-time league best.

Viewed now as a reclamation project, Dwayne Haskins will, seemingly for the first time as a pro, work with a head coach that prefers his talent.

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Having detonated for a combined 81 completions for 842 yards in his previous two starts, against Indianapolis in late December and Cleveland in the AFC Wild Card game, not to mention the $41 million cap hit the final year of his contract entails, Ben Roethlisberger will return for his 18th NFL season if he so chooses. If not, the Steelers might have just found themselves his replacement.