Betting on Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger ‘a Losing Proposition’?

Ben Roethlisberger Pittsburgh Steelers

Getty Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger.

Well, this is disconcerting. Today, Pro Football Focus published its 2020 Team Preview for the Pittsburgh Steelers. While many NFL observers predict quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will return to form following season-ending elbow surgery, PFF isn’t quite so optimistic.

“Betting on Big Ben to return to his Super Bowl-caliber past appears to be a losing proposition, according to our simulation,” writes Steve Palazzolo. Moreover, PFF doesn’t envision team success either, saying: “Pittsburgh is significantly lower in our simulation than all listed betting odds.; we have the Steelers’ win total sitting slightly below 7.5 wins…. We are significantly lower than betting markets by giving them a 66.9% chance of not making the playoffs.”


Ben Roethlisberger in 2018-19

PFF’s primary concern is that Roethlisberger was showing signs of decline even before his elbow gave out, noting that even though Big Ben put up big numbers in 2018, “he had the eighth-highest percentage of negatively graded throws in the league,” adding: “The concern for Roethlisberger and the Steelers is his below-average performance in many stable metrics, including clean-pocket grade and passes thrown at or beyond the sticks.”

The counter-argument is that Roethlisberger’s elbow was giving him trouble at least as far back as 2018, which could easily explain a rise in the number of missed passes—especially downfield throws. The hope is that the elbow surgery has remedied his issues, and that he’ll experience a resurgence that lasts at least two years, as he’s under contract through 2021, with a cap hit of $41.25 million next year.


Steelers Will Miss the Playoffs in 2020?

As for the notion that the Steelers will win fewer than eight games in 2020, well, that doesn’t seem likely. Sure, the competition within the AFC North figures to be ferocious, with the Baltimore Ravens fielding one the best teams in the NFL and the Cleveland Browns featuring an above-average roster in terms of talent. But the Browns have yet to show they can put it all together and make a run at the playoffs—and until they do, don’t seem to be a good bet.

Also, if the Steelers finished below .500 this year it would be a first for Mike Tomlin, whose teams have won at least eight games every year since he became head coach in 2007.

Keep in mind, too, that seven teams will make the playoffs from each conference this year. Had the seven team rule been in effect during the 2010s, the Steelers would have made four additional playoff appearances—in 2012, 2013, 2018 and 2019. And on paper, anyway, the 2020 roster is arguably better than any other edition of the Steelers since 2010.

Moreover, if Ben Roethlisberger’s arm does not hold up and the Steelers have to turn to a combination of Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges, both now have NFL game experience that ought to benefit them going forward. The addition of a dedicated QB coach, Matt Canada, is another factor that cannot be overlooked, especially as it concerns the development of Rudolph and Hodges.

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READ NEXT: Steelers Beat Writer: ‘Mason Rudolph is Neil O’Donnell’

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