On my weekly podcast with co-host Bryan Anthony Davis on Monday called Steelers Q&A, the main theme had to do with the Steelers preparedness in 2019 and whether or not they—mainly offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner—were actually ready to move forward after quarterback Ben Roethlisberger went down in Week 2 with a season-ending elbow injury.
Bryan’s opinion was that the Steelers, especially Fichtner, were not prepared and they were caught with their pants down. My opinion was that the Steelers weren’t prepared, but also, DUH!
BAD also asked me over and over again if they would be better prepared in 2020 in the event of another major injury to Roethlisberger. I gave several answers to that question, and they all had to do with... maybe? What did he mean by better prepared in 2020? For that matter, what did he mean by the Steelers being caught with their pants down in 2019? I kept trying to answer the questions about 2019 and the hypothetical questions about 2020, but in the back of my mind, I was thinking, “Seriously?” And making matters worse for me was our lovely live chat community that continued to chime in with comments such as, “You tell’em, BAD!” and “You’re exactly right, Bryan!” Man, was I steamed and frustrated. I mean, what did these people want? What did they expect? Ever see that one episode of Seinfeld where Elaine spends the entire show trying to find socks for Mr. Pitt? Remember by the end when, super frustrated, she finally asks him, “What do you want?” He says, “I want a decent sock that’s comfortable, that will stay on my foot!”
Yeah, that’s right, I felt like Elaine. “WHAT DO YOU PEOPLE WANT?!?”
There is no comfortable plan for when your franchise quarterback goes down with a major injury.
Later on Monday, during the debut of our new podcast called The Retro Show, the theme centered around naming and talking about the greatest backup quarterbacks in team history. Right at the beginning of the show, someone from the live chat said, and I’m paraphrasing, “We need to sign a quarterback on Ben’s level so we can make the playoffs in case he gets hurt again.”
And that’s when this article was born.
Bryan asked that we keep things retro for our retro show, so I didn’t clap back at that person in the live chat, but if I would have, it would have gone down something like this: “Ah ha!”
In other words, it’s always been about wanting the same results from the backup quarterback that you got from Ben Roethlisberger, not just for Bryan, but for the entire Steelers fan base.
When you say things like, “No, you don’t understand, I just want a coordinator that can better utilize the personnel he has on hand,” what you’re really saying is, “I want the same results from Mason Rudolph/Devlin Hodges that they got from Roethlisberger.” When you spend an entire offseason hoping and praying and wishing for the team to sign a veteran backup quarterback with a name, what you’re really saying is, “I want the same results that I witnessed with Big Ben.”
When you’re talking about a better plan for 2020, that’s what you mean—same results with lesser talent.
And I don’t want you to think I’m picking on Bryan. This article was eventually going to be written with or without the angst that resulted from the latest episode of Steelers Q&A/The Retro Show. There are plenty of BADs out there. Sometimes, they go by Lance Williams. Sometimes, they go by Andrew Fillipponi. Sometimes, that person’s name is Bill from Blawnox. Other times, it could be someone calling themselves Cindy from Colorado.
They’re all around us.
I’ve been saying this since last year. I’ve been saying this to anyone who has been willing to listen. The problem is, not many people have been willing to hear me. I just can’t believe we’re continuing to have these discussions. I just can’t believe people are still wringing their hands over the backup quarterback situation and acting as if the Steelers are going to be totally screwed if Roethlisberger goes down again.
Guess what? They are. And they likely would have been regardless of who their backup quarterback was or what kind of alternative plan they could have come up with for 2020. You can say the same thing for just about every team in the NFL. Are there exceptions? Sure. But when you say “exceptions,” what does that really mean? Does it mean that team’s backup is as good as its starter? If so, that team’s starter isn’t on the caliber of a Roethlisberger.
And what plan? If there is one, that sucker should have been copycatted a long time ago.
I hate to sound like a Randy Fichtner apologist because, believe me, I’m not. But if you take any coordinator in the NFL and strip him of his top quarterback and his top receiver before the third game of his second season (can’t forget about the ugly departure of Antonio Brown), what do you think is going to happen? Furthermore, what happens when that offensive coordinator can’t rely on his new top receiver due to injuries and struggles? What happens when his top running back can’t stay healthy for an entire game, let alone an entire season?
What happens is you go from the best red zone offense in the NFL (2018) to the worst red zone offense in the NFL (2019). You go from averaging nearly 27 points per game (2018) to 18 points per game (2019).
It seems pretty simple. It seems pretty understandable. The fact Pittsburgh mostly survived this considerable handicap and went into the final week of the regular season still alive for the playoffs was nothing short of a miracle. In many respects, this was Mike Tomlin’s greatest coaching job. It should be celebrated. There should be hope for 2020. Instead, we have spent an entire offseason worrying about quarterback insurance. We want guarantees that everything will be okay in the event of another elbow injury. We’re questioning Fichtner’s abilities. We have conspiracy theories about Roethlisberger being the secret offensive coordinator. And when that theory isn’t being discussed, there’s talk of Matt Canada, the new “quarterbacks coach,” acting as the double-secret offensive coordinator.
First, it was Bruce Arians. Then, it was Todd Haley. Now, it’s Randy Fichtner that everyone despises? At least Arians and Haley benefited from cupboards full of weapons. What has caused you to turn on Fichtner after just one bad season? His inability to turn water into wine?
I’ll leave you with a quote from some guy who my old—and super-cheap—boss hired to do contract work for his business many years ago: “He wants Taj Mahal results, but he only wants to pay Motel 6 prices.”