Continuing with the rankings of the top 32 players at a given position going into the 2021 NFL season, Pro Football Focus recently released their list as comprised by former NFL quarterback Bruce Gradkowski. A reserve quarterback behind Ben Roethlisberger in 2014 before landing on IR for the 2015 season, Gradkowski played for five NFL franchises including the Oakland Raiders, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cincinnati Bengals, and Cleveland Browns as well as the Steelers.
With actual NFL credentials, Gradkowski‘s list carries much more weight than the typical PFF evaluations. So where does Gradkowski have his former teammate ranked for the 2021 season? It’s pretty much right in the middle of the list at the 16th position.
Here is the exact breakdown Gradkowski gives of Roethlisberger going into 2021:
Ben Roethlisberger proved his toughness by coming back at 38 years old after elbow surgery and helping the Steelers to an 11-0 start. But something just didn’t seem right during that hot streak, and Pittsburgh finished the year 1-5 in its last six games.
New offensive coordinator Matt Canada has a tall task in trying to figure out what will make this offense tick. Roethlisberger ranked last out of 36 qualifying quarterbacks on play-action attempts last season. He subsequently led the league in shotgun pass attempts (640) and pass attempts under 10 yards. He did a decent job of getting the ball out of his hand quickly, but it didn’t translate into many explosive plays, as the Steelers ranked 26th in explosive pass-play percentage (11.7%).
When it comes to the rest of the AFC North, Ben Roethlisberger comes in third place behind Lamar Jackson (8th) and Baker Mayfield (10th). Roethlisberger landed two spots ahead of 2020 first overall draft pick Joe Burrow of the Cincinnati Bengals who came in 18th.
With the Pittsburgh Steelers already deemed to have the most difficult schedule based on 2020 records, where their opposing quarterbacks fell on this list was not surprising. Roethlisberger finished ahead of four quarterbacks the Steelers are scheduled to face in 2021 in Joe Burrow,
As for the other 10 quarterbacks the Steelers face in 2021, six of them are in the top 10 in Patrick Mahomes (1st), Aaron Rodgers (3rd), Russell Wilson (4th), Josh Allen (6th), Lamar Jackson (8th), and Baker Mayfield (10th). The other four quarterbacks the Steelers are scheduled to face this season are Ryan Tannehill (12th), Derek Carr (13th), Kirk Cousins (14th), and Justin Herbert (15th).
Placing Ben Roethlisberger in the middle of the NFL is a somewhat fair assessment with how the Steelers finished up the 2020 season. The fact that Gradkowski brings up new offensive coordinator Matt Canada shows he is much more in tune to what Roethlisberger will need to do for the 2021 season then the typical analytical breakdown coming from PFF. Notice Gradkowski does it make outrageous claims such as “having a dead arm” or “unable to throw the deep ball” despite both numerical and video evidence to the contrary. Perhaps PFF will take this as an indication and continue to have actual football experts doing their projections in the future.
So what do you think of Gradkowski‘s assessment? Do you think it’s a fair place to have Ben Roethlisberger start the 2021 season compared to other quarterbacks in the NFL? Do you feel Roethlisberger will likely move in one direction or the other based on his play in the Steelers new offensive system? Make sure you leave your thoughts in the comments below.