The Pittsburgh Steelers find themselves in a tough spot entering the 2020 season. Once again, they have put all their eggs in the Ben Roethlisberger basket, but this isn’t like in years prior. Up until Roethlisberger’s season-ending injury in Week 2 of the 2019 regular season fans would expect nothing less from the organization.
But when a 37, soon to be 38, year old quarterback suffers a season-ending injury to his throwing elbow, it raises some red flags.
There hasn’t been much chatter surrounding Roethlisberger’s return, other than how his February 21st appointment will be the next step in the process, and possibly when Roethlisberger will be permitted to start throwing objects again.
Despite the unknown that is Roethlisberger’s elbow, and future, the Steelers’ brass remain confident in their franchise quarterback returning to form.
“We have to be realistic,” Kevin Colbert told local media last week. “He’s a great quarterback who suffered a season-ending injury to his right arm. Optimistically, he’s on schedule to return, and we hope he’ll return to be a better Ben Roethlisberger than he was previous to the injury.”
A better Roethlisberger would be a huge positive for a team who had to suffer through Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges, both ridiculously inexperienced at the NFL level, starts. Colbert is hopeful, but remains realistic.
“We’re hopeful he can make a complete recovery, and as of right now, he’s on schedule for that,” Colbert said. “Where that goes remains to be seen.”
When Mike Tomlin took to ESPN this week, he was asked about Roethlisberger and if he has any hesitation about his ability to not just return, but return to the type of player he was before the injury.
“I have no hesitation,” Tomlin said, “and I base that opinion on my experience and relationship with him and being around him for the number of years that I have. This guy is the ultimate competitor. He’s dropped the gauntlet down, he’s made a statement that he’s coming back – and I look forward to watching him answer that challenge.”
Then Tomlin was asked the question many fans have been talking about since Roethlisberger decided to grow his beard and add more and more street clothes as winter moved into western Pennsylvania.
How does Roethlisberger look?
“He looks awesome, man,” Tomlin said of Roethlisberger, “but he hasn’t been asked to do anything as it pertains to his rehabilitation. The process, day-to-day, is going great – but we’re not at a significant crossroad and it’s going to be a number of days before we are.”
Roethlisberger’s situation truly is day-to-day, and the Steelers look as if they are deciding to go into 2020 playing with fire, again. Colbert had this to say about the team’s backup quarterbacks on the current roster.
“We understand who our backups are, and we’re comfortable with who our backups are,” Colbert said. “I thought they did a representable job in 2019 under the circumstances.”
If you are honest about the situation, and the team’s salary cap space remaining, you know they have very little room to make any type of moves at any position, let alone at quarterback. Would it be great to upgrade to a player like Case Keenum to backup No. 7? Absolutely, but if they decide to retain Bud Dupree there won’t be much money available to pay anyone, let alone a depth position.
The Steelers are playing with fire, again, but they really have no choice. If Roethlisberger is able to recover and be the quarterback fans are longing to see play again, the team will be just fine and a will resume their role as a playoff contender. But if he isn’t the quarterback he once was, and flounders upon his return, it could be the hat trick for the Steelers and missing the playoffs for the third straight season.
They are all-in on Roethlisberger, and the fact remains, their success in 2020, and potentially beyond, relies on it.