The Steelers shouldn’t bench Ben yet, but that time may come

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

While many are looking for a quarterback switch after a putrid 1-3 start, the Steelers’ benching Roethlisberger isn’t a great solution.

Let’s be clear about this upfront: Ben Roethlisberger has been playing subpar football through the first four weeks. You can blame the veteran himself, his line, or his supporting cast around him, but the fact of the matter is, he isn’t delivering quality performances right now and it is inhibiting the Steelers. With so much uncertainty surrounding him, many are calling for him to be benched.

To his credit, his lackluster play isn’t completely surprising. Even when he signed his reworked deal in the offseason, I didn’t think it made the Steelers legitimate Super Bowl competitors. There was too much working against them and Roethlisberger showed some serious regression at the end of the 2020 season. While his returning gave the team the best chance to win, it still wasn’t a huge boost given the plethora of losses to the team.

While his play so far has been worse than I thought it would be, it isn’t completely shocking. This run has been billed as his likely last one in the NFL, and plenty of quarterbacks before him have seen their final season end in disappointment in terms of their play. Roethlisberger is in severe regression. That shouldn’t be a surprise from a 39-year-old quarterback.

Is the Steelers benching Roethlisberger the right move?

To be honest, this answer is a mixed bag right now. While the Steeler fan in me made me think they could be a playoff contender by the end of the preseason, my original 8-9 season prediction seems to be fair four weeks into the season.

Once the defense fully heals and gets all of their starters back out there, they can help win games, as they did in week one. It won’t be enough to win the division or likely even make the playoffs, but it should leave the Steelers in the middle of the pack in terms of records.

Does the team keeping Roethlisberger at the helm change that much? No, not really, but at least the veteran gets one last shot and can go out still being considered the starter. While that would be more of a feel-good, it is predicated on the team being average. They aren’t that right now. If the team continues to lose games going forward, the Steelers will have to bench the veteran.

Even if the feel-good story plays out, is it the right choice? An 8-9 record doesn’t do anything for the team right now, and it leaves questions heading into next season as to what to do at quarterback. On the flip side, tanking could land a top ten pick for the team. Even if they wanted to not draft a quarterback this offseason, they could land an elite talent or trade back for a handful of picks.

To be clear, if the Steelers end up benching Roethlisberger for Mason Rudolph, it isn’t to win more games. Sure, the offense may surge for a game or two as is accustomed when a new quarterback starts, but long-term it wouldn’t amount to more winning. It would signal that the team wants to see what they have in Rudolph before the next offseason though. That could be well worth it as the team will be looking for a new quarterback sooner than later.

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All of this said the team is fine starting Roethlisberger this week. Personally, I would only give him three more weeks tops. If the record sits at 1-6 or even 2-5, it may be time to pull him and see what you have in Rudolph. The team doesn’t have many good answers to this question right now though, so rolling with Roethlisberger, for now, makes the most sense.