When it comes to the NFL, change is inevitable. At the conclusion of each season, teams leave the locker room knowing the same 53 players will not be assembling for the next season as they will gain some teammates as well as lose some. Sometimes the changes are big changes while other times they are just small tweaks from year to year.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are facing some of the biggest changes they have had in quite some time. With the same head coach since 2007, the same quarterback since 2004, and the same general manager, or equivalent job title, since 2000, the Steelers have a change in two of those three significant roles. With Omar Khan announced as the Steelers general manager last week, the question about the quarterback position will continue to sort itself out at the end of the summer.
After 18 seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the most of any quarterback in NFL history where they only played for one franchise, Ben Roethlisberger should be destined for Canton in five years. A two-time times Super Bowl champion, Roethlisberger holds just about every passing record for one of the most historic franchises in the national football league.
After returning from elbow surgery for the 2020 season, the Steelers hoped their franchise quarterback would help improve their 30th ranked offense from 2019. But as the Steelers saw a boost of offensive production in a season where they won their first 11 games, they ultimately finished the year as the 25th ranked offense in terms of yardage while coming in 12th in the league in points scored.
After spending their 2021 first-round draft pick on running back Najee Harris, the Steelers saw a somewhat improved rushing attacked in 2021 as they went from the league worst 32nd ranked team up to 29th. Unfortunately, the improvement overall for the offense only brought them up to the 23rd ranked team in terms of yardage while dropping to 21st in the league in points scored.
With the offense sputtering for the last three seasons for the Pittsburgh Steelers, some wondered what was the precise cause. Was it the offensive scheme? Was it the quarterback play? Was it struggles on the offensive line? Was it the other supporting cast of skill positions?
After changing offensive coordinators for the 2021 season, the rankings already showed the Steelers did not see a large improvement in Matt Canada’s first season. While some believe the problem is with Canada and his philosophy, others feel Ben Roethlisberger was not the right quarterback, especially being in his 18th season, to fully implement Canada‘s schemes.
Regardless of scheme, one thing Ben Roethlisberger supplied for the Steelers and their fan base over the years was hope. When the Steelers were down late in a game, as long as they could get an offensive possession in the final minutes and were within a score, Roethlisberger could often will the Steelers to victory.
So without Ben Roethlisberger as the quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2022, what will the offensive production from this coming season ultimately tell us about the final years of his career?
If the Steelers offense suddenly becomes explosive like fans saw in the middle of the 2010s, will it make Roethlisberger’s final seasons look subpar? Granted, there are a number of factors involved which may or may not cause some to draw conclusions about Ben Roethlisberger. If the offensive line seems to be improved, it’s hard to blame such things on Roethlisberger. But if quarterback mobility and a downfield passing game are at the forefront of the Steelers offense, it could be quite telling of the Steelers last two seasons.
But it’s not just going to come down to yardage and points scored. If the Steelers can’t pull out victories at the end of games like they had been able to do under Roethlisberger, it may cause Steelers’ Nation to begin longing for the days of Ben Roethlisberger coming up clutch.
At this time, Steelers’ fans have no idea what the 2022 season is going to bring. Even though Ben Roethlisberger is no longer on the Steelers roster, how the Steelers move forward after his departure will influence how the final few seasons of his career will be perceived. And while Ben Roethlisberger‘s legacy is important to a lot of Steeler fans, especially when it comes to his eventual enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the team continuing to be the moving train that is an NFL franchise is of the upmost importance.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are a historic NFL franchise. Sometimes it is a difficult balance between team legacy/history and current success. For the 2022 Pittsburgh Steelers, their upcoming season maybe writing the story under both categories.