Heading into the start of the Steelers 2020 regular season, the big question that hovered over the team like a UFO in a Twilight Zone episode was the health of Ben Roethlisberger, the savior of a franchise quarterback that was largely responsible for making the Steelers a Super Bowl champion (twice) all the way back in the 2000s.
The Steelers remained a Super Bowl contender even through all of those rough transitional years of the 2010s, when Roethlisberger and a revamped offense kept the team afloat.
The reason why the offense had to do so much of the heavy lifting during the previous decade was due to a defense that took a little longer than many had hoped to transition from old, slow and it’s over, to young, fast and good again.
But despite carrying a Roethlisberger-less offense on its now very sturdy back all throughout the 2019 season, the young, fast and good Steelers defense couldn’t quite carry it all the way to the postseason.
Thankfully, the Steelers franchise quarterback was on the mend from major elbow surgery and on his way back to help the offense pull its fair share and make the Steelers a serious contender, once more.
At least that’s what everyone hoped heading into Monday night.
With sixty minutes of the Steelers 2020 regular season now officially in the books, it’s safe to say Roethlisberger is back.
Or maybe it’s safer to say Roethlisberger passed his first huge test by completing 21 of 32 passes for 229 yards and three touchdowns in the Steelers 26-16 victory over the Giants at MetLife Stadium.
Roethlisberger was sluggish early on, but he pulled it together. Did he show that he could throw all of the passes in his tool-belt? No, but he proved that he could throw enough of them. Roethlisberger didn’t go deep all that much, and I don’t remember seeing many passes where he had to fit the ball into tight spaces, but he wasn’t throwing lolly pops, either. He was accurate. He was precise. He was efficient. The Steelers scored three touchdowns on four trips inside the red zone. They were also eight of 15 on third down conversions. Not bad.
And was it any coincidence that the Steelers scored 26 points on Monday—or almost exactly what they averaged per game during Roethlisberger’s last full season two years ago?
That was a rhetorical question, because I don’t think it was a coincidence.
There are still more tests for Roethlisberger to pass throughout the remainder of the 2020 campaign. Can he really throw all of the passes in his tool-belt? Has he re-gained the accuracy on his deep passes that seemed to be missing for a few years prior to his injury? What about those tight windows?
Furthermore, how will that 38-year old, surgically-repaired elbow hold up over the grind of a 16-week regular season?
That all remains to be seen, but Big Ben passed the first big test of the 2020 regular season.
Onto the second test.