Ben Roethlisberger could still play for the Steelers beyond the 2021 season
The Pittsburgh Steelers are at the tail end of Ben Roethlisberger’s career. Will the 2021 season be his final year as their franchise quarterback?
The Steelers had a very long journey back to consistency at the quarterback position after Terry Bradshaw’s time was up. The team went through seven different quarterbacks to start the majority of their games from 1983 until Big Ben took over for Tommy Maddox in Week 4 of the 2004 season.
The team has enjoyed many years of success with Ben at the helm. He helps to make them perennial playoff contenders and has delivered two Lombardi trophies to the Steel City and was very close to delivering a third.
The 2020 season was believed by many to be Ben’s final season as a Steeler. He was coming off major elbow surgery on his throwing arm and was then a 38-year old player.
Ben responded to critics by having a terrific start to the year. In the first 8 games of the season, Ben threw for 1,934 yards, 18 touchdowns, and just 4 interceptions while completing 68 percent of his passes.
Ben had led the team to an 8-0 record despite the struggles to the run game. Those same struggles would be the demise of the team down the stretch.
In Ben’s final seven games of the regular season, he threw for 1,869 yards, 15 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions. His completion percentage fell five percentage points to 63 and his passer rating fell from 101.8 to 87.1.
Many of his struggles were due to the high volume of pass plays the team had to call due to a lack of a competent rushing attack.
Fast-forward to the 2021 offseason, the Steelers completely retooled their offensive line and added rookie Najee Harris to the backfield to try and improve on one of the league’s worst rushing offenses in 2020.
The Steelers did something similar beginning in 2010 when they began rebuilding a bad offensive line by taking Maurkice Pouncey in the first round. They then took Marcus Gilbert in the second round in 2011 and David DeCastro in the first round of 2012 and the offensive line suddenly was a strong point of the team.
This rebuild of the offensive line likely prolonged Roethlisberger’s career as he was sacked 242 times in his first five seasons before the rebuild and was sacked just 259 times in his next nine seasons, nearly cutting in half his average sacks taken per game.
Ben is no longer the 28-year old spring chicken he was in 2010 but he can still sling the rock. The Steelers saw he still had some juice left in his right arm to play quarterback at an NFL level and made an effort to fix the offensive line and run game both for Ben and for their future.
Ben himself has said he doesn’t know what lies ahead for him after this year. Team president Art Rooney II and GM Kevin Colbert echoed the same sentiments that no one knows what is going to happen beyond 2021 and it isn’t guaranteed that this is his last season in the NFL.
If the offensive line can gel as a unit and help rejuvenate the run game and allow Najee Harris to do what he was drafted for, Ben Roethlisberger’s career, albeit not another 10 years like in 2010, could be prolonged yet again beyond 2021.