Did Steelers miss a big trade opportunity during the 2021 offseason?

Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (9). Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (9). Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports /

Matthew Stafford could prove to be a star with the Rams. Did the Pittsburgh Steelers miss an opportunity by not pursuing him via trade?

Regardless of how optimistic you are, Pittsburgh Steelers fans have to know that this ‘Super Bowl window’ is soon slamming shut (if it hasn’t already). Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger gave us some hope last year as his team started the season with a perfect 11-0 record. Unfortunately, this pace didn’t last.

Over the final six games of the regular season and into the playoffs, Big Ben played some of the worst football I ever remember seeing, and he didn’t give us a bode of confidence entering the 2021 offseason.

Meanwhile, several young quarterbacks were rumored to be on the trade block. Two that Steelers analysts had toyed with the notion of adding were Sam Darnold and Matthew Stafford. While Darnold always seemed like the more likely of the two, it was Stafford who really had me intrigued.

When the Los Angeles Rams offered up a blockbuster trade for the veteran quarterback, fans thought they robbed themselves in the deal. In gaining Stafford, the Rams surrendered two future first-round picks, a third-round pick, and quarterback Jared Goff. While this seems like a lot to give up for a 33-year-old passer, I give the Rams props for recognizing that nothing else matters if you don’t have a legitimate franchise quarterback.

Did the Steelers miss an opportunity to land Matt Stafford?

This was never a very real possibility as the Steelers were in a nightmare situation with the salary cap, and Ben Roethlisberger’s contract put them in a pickle. However, with a solid roster in place and a great defense to work with, Stafford could have made Pittsburgh much stronger Super Bowl contenders.

This isn’t a slight against, Big Ben; we all know he’s had his seasons in the sun and he will hear his name called to Canton one day. However, we can’t begin to pretend like there is no difference between these two players.

Matt Stafford gets a bad rap sometimes, and I have a hard time trying to understand why. Despite playing with a bottom-of-the-barrel organization in Detriot and having not much talent to work with, Stafford has carried the team on his shoulders.

At the age of 23 in 2011, Stafford surpassed 5,000 passing yards while pitching in 41 touchdowns to 16 interceptions. While he hasn’t seen quite the same raw numbers since he has continually improved and developed into a more efficient player. Over the past two seasons, Stafford has remarkably averaged over 8.0 years per attempt while managing to throw 45 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in his last 24 games, according to Pro Football Reference.

In addition, Stafford is currently in his quarterback prime and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. Though the two first-round picks seem like a lot for a player who is already in his 30s, he is 5 years younger than Ben Roethlisberger and doesn’t have nearly the same injury history. Stafford has only fallen short of playing 16 games one time since 2011.

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I’m not saying that this was ever something that was likely to happen; it wasn’t. And we all know how loyal Pittsburgh is to Ben Roethlisberger. Still, if Matthew Stafford goes on to compete for a few championships with his new team, perhaps we could later think of this as a missed opportunity to move on with a new franchise quarterback.