As much as nobody would like to return to the year 2020 based on how much life changed during the global pandemic, I find myself thinking back to this time last year in regards to the Pittsburgh Steelers. After Ben Roethlisberger only played six quarters of the 2019 season, fans were looking for all kinds of indications to see if they could catch a glimpse of any sign of a successful return.
The 2019 season saw the emergence of the Steelers defense to a level they had not seen in several years. After trading for Minkah Fitzpatrick and things starting to come together, getting the Steelers two-time Super Bowl Champion back in the huddle for 2020, even if it wasn’t exactly at full capacity, could have been the one thing the team was missing in order to make a championship run.
The bottom line is, Steelers fans wanted more from the quarterback play they saw in 2019. Roethlisberger, even if he was not what he once was, gave the team an instant upgrade at the position. The Steelers could do so much more with Ben Roethlisberger.
The first part of the 2020 season really seemed to have this line of thought ring true. Roethlisberger was doing his thing, and Steelers rolled off a franchise record 11 straight victories to start the season. But one win over their final six games and it seemed like everything was erased.
So what about 2021? Is it that Steelers fans want even more from Roethlisberger then what he offered to start the 2020 season?
In fact, it’s the opposite. Most people want less Roethlisberger.
It’s not that they don’t want Rothlisberger as quarterback, although some fans were quite adamant about that early in the offseason. What the Steelers fan base, as well as the team, is looking to do for 2021 is not have Roethlisberger be everything to the offense.
They need a run game.
The 2020 season was all about Roethlisberger‘s return and what he could add to the Steelers. Right now, the 2021 season is about keeping Roethlisberger from having to throw the ball 50 times a game. It’s not that he can’t, it’s more about the Steelers are a better team if he doesn’t have to.
The Steelers have given us a taste of a couple different possibilities of their offense. The 2019 season showed that subpar quarterback play really affected how far a team could go. In 2020, Steelers fans were given a glimpse of how a completely quarterback dependent offense could carry the team for a while, but simply was not a sustainable as teams figured out how to counter the Steelers offense.
So other than a new offensive coordinator, what will 2021 bring? Will the Steelers find the delicate balance of having a quarterback to do the job while not having to depend on him for the entire offense?
Honestly, I believe that’s what both the Steelers organization and their fans are looking for. If the Steelers can get back to where they can at least run the ball at an average level compared to other NFL teams, it will open up so much more to their offense. By doing so, Ben Roethlisberger could have a fantastic season simply by not having to do as much.