Did we not see how a perfect season imploded into non-existence? Twelve weeks straight, the Pittsburgh Steelers looked like they had no equal. There was speculation on the team’s legitimacy as a playoff contender, when looking beyond the win-loss record.
But, all fingers point at Ben Roethlisberger, like the war vet with a limping leg, talking about the good old days. Amongst a pool of young and hungry talent who can’t relate to the hero of yesteryear, this doesn’t work.
It was clear as daylight, when the nameless Washington Football Team handed the Steelers their first loss of the season, in Week 13. Washington has been facing identity problems this past season, so Pittsburgh can only blame itself.
The Steelers could not mount anything close to resembling a playoff contender. A returning Alex Smith, who had recently recovered from a life threatening injury in 2018, was a far superior quarterback.
Two back-to-back losses further damaged Pittsburgh’s credibility, and Roethlisberger’s legacy, against the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals. The close 28-24 win over the Indianapolis Colts did not cover up for what happened.
To end the season and Wild Card appearance, the Cleveland Browns, usually their punching bag, humiliated the Steelers. First in Week 17 and then during the Wild Card round, 24-22 and 48-37. In the last five games, Roethlisberger threw eight interceptions, four in the Wild Card against Cleveland.
Roethlisberger has shown in recent games that he can’t adapt to changes. He’s trying to fight against Father Time and injuries. He doesn’t possess the skills to shred defenses like a young Patrick Mahomes, or conjure comebacks like Tom Brady. There’s no feel good story like that of Alex Smith, the NFL’s future in Patrick Mahomes, or the ageless wonder Tom Brady, to what is left in Roethlisbeger’s career.
This is a pitaval moment for the Steelers. They have Big Ben for another year. Does the team try to build its future around the younger quarterback Mason Rudolph, or gamble on Roethlisger’s declining career?