“Every time I see the highlights of Ben Roethlisberger now it is agonizing—it is excruciating—because we remember how he used to be,” said Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk during his show on Thursday Oct. 7. “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak because the flesh is old and broken and battered and it’s not getting any better the more games (the Steelers) play this year.
“It’s not gonna get better,” agreed co-host Chris Simms, a former NFL quarterback who believes that it’s Roethlisberger—not the offensive line—that has kept the Steelers from being better than 1-3 and in last place in the AFC North.
“The biggest mistakes in all three losses are all Big Ben Roethlisberger-related,” offered Simms, without getting into specifics. “You can make the argument that if you eliminate some of his mistakes, they could have won all three of these games or certainly been in position (to win) late in the game.”
Simms is also steadfast that Pittsburgh’s offensive line—or at least the pass protection—is not as bad as casual observers have been led to believe.
“People are open. I don’t know what he’s looking at, I don’t know what he’s reading. The protection is not that bad,” insists the former third-round pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who also played for the Tennessee Titans and Denver Broncos during his five-year NFL career (2004-09).
Chris Simms: ‘The Clock is Ticking in Pittsburgh’
Both Florio and Simms are in agreement that Roethlisberger can’t continue to play at his current level much longer before the team will have no choice but to make a change at quarterback.
“At a certain point it diminishes your legacy if you keep playing in these games and it’s a clear reminder that you’re not what you used to be,” said Florio.
Indeed, by almost any measure, Roethlisberger is posting the worst numbers of his career, with the exception of the first five quarters of the 2019 season, right before he suffered a season-ending elbow injury that required major reconstructive surgery.
Thus far in 2020, Roethlisberger has completed 109 of 170 passes for 351 yards, a mere 6.1 yards per attempt, this as compared to his career average of 7.7 YPA. With four touchdown passes and four interceptions, his passer rating stands at 78.9, far below his career average of 93.7, as per Pro Football Reference.
“I gotta think the clock is ticking there in Pittsburgh a little bit,” elaborated Simms, who believes it’s getting kissing close to the time for Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin to ask the following questions:
“Are we being fair to our football team? Is this even right what we’re doing right now?” postulates Simms.
Mason Rudolph or Dwayne Haskins Are the Alternatives
The first alternative would be to turn the team over to 26-year-old backup Mason Rudolph, who, by the way, is the only quarterback the Steelers have under contract for 2022.
Simms believes it’s a move that has the potential to pay immediate dividends.
“(The Steelers) are a team that if they just play the right way on the offense, they could win some of these games and win them ugly. Their defense is still damn good. I don’t care what the stats say. The reason the stats aren’t great for the Pittsburgh defense is because the offense is off the field every three plays,” he emphasizes.
Then, if Rudolph gets injured—or proves he isn’t up to the task of being a starter—the Steelers can try former Washington first-round pick Dwayne Haskins, who can readily be retained in 2022, as he’ll be a restricted free agent after this season.
Either way, Florio believes that Steelers fans are going to be watching a new quarterback sooner rather than later, as soon as the team places Big Ben on the injured reserve list, either because of injuries real or imagined. For what it’s worth, Roethlisberger is already on the injury report with both pectoral and hip injuries.
“I still stand by my prediction that it’s going to be injured reserve and never to be heard from again, and maybe that’s the right thing to do,” concluded Florio.
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