Does Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger have another season left?

Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) /

Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger had a rough end to the 2020 season, but here’s why I think he can bounce back in 2021.

There has been a common opinion among many NFL analysts this offseason when it comes to ranking Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger. Pro Football Focus had him right in the middle of their rankings at #16, NBC has him at #21 and CBS has him ranked in the same tier as guys like Andy Dalton and Sam Darnold.

In general, there is not a lot of high expectations from the media. While I understand the pessimism surrounding Ben after a rough end to last season, I think another year removed from his elbow surgery and new offensive coordinator Matt Canada’s philosophy could elevate Ben back into the top 10 conversations. The additions from this year’s draft will also help raise both the floor and ceiling of the offense, particularly the addition of Najee Harris.

Najee Harris will elevate Steelers offense

Selecting RB Najee Harris in the 1st round received mixed reviews from the media, but his skill-set is exactly what Ben will need to return to form. The offense was at its most dangerous years ago when they had a back who could split out wide as a receiver while still being able to handle a heavy rushing workload.

The talented rookie running back gives play-caller Matt Canada scheme flexibility that he would not have had otherwise and should help out an unproven offensive line. We have already seen him work at receiver in minicamp, and I believe that will continue into training camp this summer.

Matt Canada will craft the offense to maximize Ben, whether he likes it or not

One of the most glaring issues for the Steelers passing game last season was the lack of play-action and explosive plays as a whole. The Steelers finished last in play-action attempts, and it was clearly because Ben was not comfortable running plays from under center. He also was not a fan of using pre-snap motion – a staple of Canada’s system and something that the team used early last season.

Quite frankly, Ben has two options: continue to fight it or allow Canada to maximize the offense. My bet is on the former, and Canada can help ease him into it. By using the pistol formation, they can run more traditional run plays and run play action off of them without needing Ben to be under center as much. That compromise should hopefully help them see eye-to-eye more this season.

Don’t be the hero, be the guide

This is where my answer to the question posed in the title comes in. So, do I think Ben has another vintage season in him? No, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. When I think vintage Ben, I see defenders frantically trying to tackle him while shrugs them off, resets his feet, and fires a strike for a touchdown.

I see him extending the play and redirecting his receivers downfield so that he can make something out of nothing. That Ben is long gone, but it’s already been that way for a while.

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All he has to do now is buy into what Canada wants to do, rely on his playmakers to do the heavy lifting, and deliver big plays when the chance presents itself. If he can do that, and the running game led by Najee can take off, Ben and the Steelers offense will be just fine.