On Thursday, September 23, famed sports commentator Stephen A. Smith used his platform on ESPN’s First Take to encourage his favorite NFL team to sign a new quarterback.
“Ben Roethlisberger is not healthy, and at his age (39), he is just a stationary target. He is a statue. … He can’t move. When you look at it from that perspective, desperate times call for desperate measures.”
Inking Newton Would Be a Desperate Move
Indeed, signing former No. 1 overall pick Cam Newton would smack of desperation. Smith essentially admitted as much when he addressed some of the drawbacks associated with the 32-year-old quarterback, who was drafted by the Carolina Panthers in 2011 but played for the New England Patriots in 2020.
“We all know that he got beat out by (New England’s 2021 first-round pick) Mac Jones, lets’ just call it what it is,” said Smith, before noting that Newton’s passing accuracy remains an issue.
“And I’m not even bringing COVID into the situation in case he’s unvaccinated, as that’s a different subject for another time,” he added. “But strictly from a football perspective, when (Steelers backup) Mason Rudolph and (third-stringer) Dwayne Haskins are your options, you get Cam Newton right now.”
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Dan Orlovsky & Ryan Clark Hate the Idea
“You don’t get Cam because that does not get you a playoff offense,” countered Smith’s First Take colleague Dan Orlovsky. “No quarterback is going to make this offense a playoff offense…. The offensive line is terrible and anybody who is surprised by that was not paying attention through this whole offseason.”
At some point, the Steelers need to look toward the future, opined Orlovsky, a former fifth-round pick of the Detroit Lions who played for four NFL teams between 2005-15.
“If Ben Roethlisberger is not healthy enough to play for one week or multiple weeks, play Dwayne Haskins,” he said, referring to Washington’s 2019 first-round draft choice, who the Steelers signed to a one-year Reserve/Future contract in January 2021. “This kid is an ex-first-round talent who really didn’t work out in Washington, a lot because of the outside variables but also because he liked being in the NFL more than playing in the NFL.”
When former Steelers safety Ryan Clark had a chance to weigh in, he said: “I don’t know where Cam can make a difference on this team. I don’t see where he has something that is going to keep afloat the hopes and aspirations of this organization from a playoff-type perspective.”
One problem is that Newton would have to learn Pittsburgh’s offense on the fly.
“I think Cam would just be so far behind the 8-ball that I just don’t think the offense can in any way expand in such a way that he would be able to elevate them … especially given the limitations on the offensive line,” added Clark.
It’s undeniable that Pittsburgh is in the process of rebuilding its offensive line, which features two rookie starters—Kendrick Green at center and Dan Moore Jr. at left tackle—and a total of four new starters, including second-year left guard Kevin Dotson. Thus far, the line has struggled, both in pass protection and especially in the run game. After two weeks, the Steelers are last in the league in rushing with a mere 114 rushing yards, this in spite of the addition of 2021 first-round pick Najee Harris.
Never mind the fact that bringing in Newton would effectively signal the end of Rudolph’s Steelers career, a 2018 third-round pick who the organization has spent four years developing. During this past offseason, Rudolph signed a one-year extension that keeps him with the team through the 2022 season, an extension that has been viewed as a “vote of confidence” on the part of the Steelers’ organization.
Meanwhile, it’s very possible that Rudolph will get the chance to start Sunday’s home game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Roethlisberger was “limited” in practice on Thursday after missing Wednesday’s practice with a left pectoral injury suffered during last Sunday’s home loss to the Las Vegas Raiders.
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