This offseason has seen the national media deliver some harsh judgment on the abilities of Ben Roethlisberger. The running narrative is that Roethlisberger is washed-up, and that the Steelers need to see the bigger picture and let him walk. While the national media has never been too kind to Big Ben, even the fans of the black-and-gold have seemed eager to jump on board with this idea, with the more vocal parts of the fan base loudly clamoring for the front office to move on from Ben and look to the future. I would have no issues with this plan if Ben had decided to retire, but many fans seem to desire this course of action regardless of Ben’s wishes. The Steelers, however, appear totally committed to Ben Roethlisberger, and I am on board with that.
For some reason, the general assumption is that Ben just can’t get it done anymore. The “experts” are ragging on the Steelers like it’s going out of style. The big issue here is that this is the same narrative that was discussed in perpetuity last offseason, and then the Steelers started 11-0 on their way to a division title, with Ben even being touted as a dark-horse MVP candidate at one point. Unfortunately, the promising season took a turn for the worse, and the Steelers limped into the playoffs before being embarrassed at home by a hungry Cleveland Browns team. After the disappointing finish to the season, everyone scrambled to find a scapegoat. Comment threads were filled with “Randy Fichtner sucks, his offense is way too predictable!”, “Ben is slow, and he can’t throw the deep ball anymore!”, “Tomlin is a terrible, underachieving joke of a head coach!”, and my personal favorite excuse for the playoff loss, “Ju-Ju just had to go and TikTok before every game! What a diva!”.
What is fascinating is that even with, according to these fans, the worst offensive coordinator of all time, the biggest underachiever in the league, and a washed-up quarterback, the Steelers were still somehow able to win the toughest division in football.
There were a lot of problems that the Steelers had to deal with last year, be it season-ending injuries to starters, an aging and injury-riddled offensive line, bland, unimaginative play-calling, or the NFL screwing them over by shuffling their games around and leaving them without a functional bye week. The Steelers overcame these issues to have what most teams would consider a successful season. But the Steelers aren’t most teams, and their fans aren’t satisfied with anything less than a Super Bowl. While this attitude certainly helps create a winning culture around the team, it is also a double-edged sword that causes fans to see the worst in their team and it’s players.
I’ll readily admit that I’m far more attached to Roethlisberger than most fans. Big Ben is the quarterback I grew up with, and my favorite player for the majority of my life. If Ben wants to retire, that’s fine, but does anyone really want to see him suit up in another team’s jersey, a la Philip Rivers? Personally, I’d rather see Ben play with the Steelers until his arm falls off, rather than watch him finish his career with whatever desperate team throws the most cash at him in free-agency.
I have no doubt Ben has one or two good years left in him, and I don’t think that a Super Bowl title is outside the realm of possibility. Like I said earlier, he was a serious dark-horse MVP candidate at one point last year. Besides, even if Ben doesn’t win another title before calling it a career, we can always just go back and watch him win Super Bowl XLIII a thousand more times. As it happens, the Steelers, and Big Ben, always seem to be at their best when the odds are stacked against them. So let the critics predict all they want that Ben is cooked, and that the Steelers will miss the playoffs. After all, we’ve seen this story before.
These are my own thoughts, but I’d love to hear where the rest of you stand on the matter. Are you down with the Steelers riding Ben until he decides to call it quits? Would you prefer that they usher him out the door, even if that means he goes somewhere else for his final season(s)? Let me know in the comments below!