Saturday, July 31

Steelers must part ways with Ben Roethlisberger after AFC playoff bust against the Browns

Ben Roethlisberger was unable to erase lingering concerns about his quarterback play in the Steelers’ shocking 48-37 loss in the AFC playoffs to the rival Browns on Sunday night. Hopefully that’s enough for the Steelers to look for their immediate successor in the 2021 offseason, regardless of whether he chooses to retire.

Before Christmas, before leading a successful second-half comeback in Week 16 against the Colts to help the Steelers win the AFC North, Sporting News detailed Roethlisberger’s physical limitations tied to his arm strength in addition to the wear, at 38 years. Running game to lean on and fight to push the ball downfield all season, resulting in poor passing yardage, Pittsburgh tried to win as many games as it could by being happy with short passes to intermediate.

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But that put Roethlisberger in a position of needing to avoid big mistakes in big games, knowing that big plays were harder to come by. That didn’t happen against Cleveland, as Big Ben’s four interceptions among five-team turnovers ultimately cost Pittsburgh a high-scoring affair.

The bad play on the Steelers’ first possession that turned into a free Browns touchdown wasn’t Roethlsiberger’s fault. His interception on the game’s penultimate possession was out of desperation. But Pittsburgh was all but doomed when Roethlisbeger threw three picks in the first 20 minutes of play.

The Steelers could watch their big second-half rally of 28 against to turn it into an 11-point game and big numbers overall (501 yards, four TDs, 110.0 passer rating) and overlook their terrible first half. But that should make them more frustrated with Roethlisberger, because he was forced to shoot at high volume (47 completions on 68 attempts with no sacks) as a result of his own opening mistakes that helped dig a big hole.

Roethlisberger expressed at one point in 2020 that he would like to return for his 39-year season. In some respects, he bounced back strong from a 2019 season lost to a right elbow injury and played well enough to regain his confidence, taking advantage of his top-tier young wide receivers and veteran tight end. He gave what he could, but in the end, it wasn’t good enough.

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If the salary-capped Steelers do not restructure Roethlisberger’s contract, then they will seek a maximum cap of $ 41.25 million by 2021. Releasing or trading Roethlisberger would cost the Steelers $ 22.25 million in dead money, but would also produce $ 19 million. in capitalization. relief. A once-difficult decision should now be a no-brainer: leave Big Ben and roll with a quarterback on a rookie contract.

The Steelers’ exit in the first round of the playoffs placed them in the 24th pick in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Their failure to make a deep run in the playoffs puts them in a better position to secure a potential quarterback. franchise quarterback the second wave of prospects in a strong quarterback class.

Roethlisberger will be inducted into the Professional Football Hall of Fame. He has had a great career with the Steelers marked by two Super Bowl victories. His overall work makes him the best quarterback in franchise history, beating Terry Bradshaw. He has lasted 17 seasons, three more than Bradshaw, resisting and winning a lot for Black and Gold.

But Roethlisberger is more like Drew Brees than Tom Brady in the sense that there are tangible signs of decline in his game due to Father Time. In an AFC full of emerging young players, including his Sunday night counterpart Baker Mayfield, the Steelers must trade to a youth quarterback with a higher ceiling.

Consider Mayfield, all 25, to be the oldest statesman in the AFC divisional playoffs, where Patrick Mahomes (25), Josh Allen (24) and Lamar Jackson (24) will also play. Mayfield and Jackson give the Browns and Ravens an advantage over the rest of the AFC North in the near future, and the Bengals with Joe Burrow are just around the corner.

BENDER: Browns grow into impressive win over Steelers

The Steelers have enjoyed a large quarterback advantage in the division for a long time, with Roethlisberger keeping Joe Flacco and Andy Dalton within arm’s reach and consistently outperforming anyone the Browns tried before Mayfield. The Steelers don’t want to be suddenly at the end of the line, which is where they are headed the most with Big Ben.

With the way Roethlisberger is playing now, the advantage is fading fast. The idea of ​​backing down a bit with a rookie passer might be tough for Mike Tomlin to accept, especially with a defense that is ready to win now and great potential in the rest of the passing game. But the Steelers have to trust that they will hit someone, just as the Browns, Bills, Chiefs and Ravens did at various stages of the draft.

Heck, at No. 11 overall in 2004, Roethlisberger was the third quarterback picked (behind Eli Manning and Philip Rivers), and that worked out really well for Pittsburgh, from going 13-0 with him starting as rookie to finally being a consistent AFC Contender and with two big rings to prove it.

Such a big change is difficult, but big breaks happen in this league. The Steelers can’t let what happened to the Patriots after they parted ways with Brady scare them away. They must think they can do what the Chargers did after saying goodbye to Philip Rivers.

Roethlisberger’s costly playoff performance against the Browns was no anomaly. It was confirmation of the evidence that he was working against his best game this season.

The Steelers need to see that and start looking up at a great replacement for Big Ben.

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