Is Ben Roethlisberger’s return the right decision for the Steelers?
On March 4th, the Pittsburgh Steelers announced that they managed to renegotiate Ben Roethlisberger’s contract for another season: meaning, Big Ben is coming back for another shot at hoisting his third Vince Lombardi Trophy with the Steelers.
However, this decision stirred up the usual controversy online. Per multiple polls, Roethlisberger got voted as the worst quarterback in AFC North. Thus, public opinion seems to be divided when it comes to Ben’s ongoing career with the Steelers.
Should he stay? Or should he go?
In February, most Las Vegas sportsbooks had a Roethlisberger retirement at +300 odds. Ben staying in the NFL got listed at -500.
The decision to remain active came as no surprise.
Gambling sites across the country also offered this market, given that following the repeal of PASPA, over twenty states have legalized the activity. Pennsylvania was one of the first to do so. They had sports betting in Illinois since 2020, and New York only recently passed its bill.
I’m sure many Steelers fans placed bets on the continuation of Ben’s career – or its demise. However, gambling odds aside, the amount of hate that this re-signing generated is a bit odd.
Yes, Ben recently turned 39, which is ancient by NFL standards. Yet, he deserves a good chunk of credit for the Steelers winning the AFC North last year amongst some formidable competition.
There are some solid arguments on both sides of the equation. Below are the pros and cons of keeping Roethsliberger on the Steelers’ roster.
Reasons why Re-Signing Ben was a potential mistake
There is no doubt that Roethlisberger lacks the mobility he once possessed. However, despite his noticeable physical decline, some fans still cling to his gunslinger mentality and aura.
Steelers owner Art Rooney believes Ben was still healing from his arm surgery last season, and in 2021, he will manage to regain his old form. (Also, don’t forget that Roethlisberger was dealing with knee issues in 2020.)
The naysayers will point out these injuries and how moving on from Roethlisberger could’ve given Pittsburgh the potential for a proper rebuild this offseason. The detractors feel that Ben’s best days are behind him and that he, and his salary, are holding the team hostage.
However, I believe that’s the wrong attitude to have and here’s why…
Reasons why the Steelers made the correct call
First things first, Big Ben’s restructured contract saved the Steelers money. Had the team cut ties with their franchise quarterback outright, they would’ve spent more money and still needed another passer to lead the team in 2021.
Critics were all-in against the Steelers and their 11-0 run last season. The wheels started to come off for several reasons, including key, season-ending injuries to linebackers to Devin Bush (the defensive playcaller) and Bud Dupree, who surged to double-digit sacks in 2019.
Roethlisberger may have also hurt his knee around the time that their streak ended, but rescheduling conflicts that cost the Steelers their bye week and also saw them play an awkward Wednesday afternoon tilt against the Ravens, ultimately affected their rest and recovery the remainder of the way.
With the worst running game in the league and receivers who led the NFL in drops, Roethlisberger still completed 65.6% of his passes for 3,803 yards, 33 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
When everyone was wondering if a QB who led the NFL in interceptions in 2018, and coming off of a major elbow surgery that cost him all but six quarters of football during the 2019 season, would be able to return to form, they were proven otherwise.
Even those who still believe that Roethlisberger did his worse damage to the team in a four-pick Wild Card performance against the Browns, have to recognize that everything outside of the first quarter heavily favored the Steelers – and that their future Hall of Famer topped 500 yards passing in game for the third time in his career, tossing four TDs in an attempt to get back into the game.
Roethlisberger may not be as mobile as he once was, but he’s also one of the least sacked quarterbacks over the last several years: a distinction that still doesn’t stick, going back to the Bruce Arians era in Pittsburgh where Ben was sacked more times under his former offensive coordinator in a five-year span than he has been sacked in the nine years since.
Rocking the boat and releasing a team legend may have also done damage to morale. It takes time to build a winning NFL team with a quality inner culture and chemistry.
Given that Ben has spent his entire career in Pittsburgh, it would be a shame for his journey to conclude with him getting let go, especially if he was successful with another team.
It’s a rare thought, seeing how nearly every team who has drafted a quarterback in between 2011-2016 no longer has that same player on their own roster. Even the biggest stars still playing, such as Tom Brady, aren’t with their original teams – and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers is threatening to leave town as well, leaving Roethlisberger as one of the few, if any, who will start and finish his career with the same franchise.
I understand that the AFC North has some shiny toys, all Heisman Trophy winners at that – but Lamar Jackson, despite winning an MVP, has a lone playoff win. Baker Mayfield does too, with current bragging rights over the Steelers. Joe Burrow had to sit and watch from the sidelines after an injury derailed his rookie campaign.
None of those quarterbacks as a defined edge over Roethlisberger at this time. The Steelers still won the AFC North and with a revamped running game, and added offensive weapons, Pittsburgh may still be the team to beat in the division.
And that’s because of Roethlisberger’s continued involvement with the team – not in spit of it.