Ben Roethlisberger’s inevitable exit: 2021 Steelers, no squad for old quarterbacks
For a generation of Steelers fans, there is no quarterback other than Big Ben Roethlisberger. It’s about to change. It’s only a matter of when, not if.
It’s the biggest but far from the only question surrounding the Steelers’ future after another playoff disaster. I’m talking about the absolute and utter embarrassment – losing at home to modest Cleveland. Still, all of the Steelers’ dismay and frustration over the 48-37 loss may be just beginning. Because the evidence presented during the game suggests an important roster in Pittsburgh.
It’s now clear that the Steelers have the worst quarterback in AFC North. The Steelers Division rivals all have promising young QBs. Two were taken at the top of recent drafts, and the third was a steal at the bottom of the first round. The Steelers have an aging and diminished Big Ben.
In the gloomy Steel City of Pittsburgh, the “will he or will he not” questions swirl around Roethlisberger are at their worst. So does the speculation about who’s out and who’s in when it comes to the Steelers roster for the 2021 season. All of this creates a state of death for the Steelers Nation. I’m covering every last tear to mop up with these already-soaked Terrible Towels in this early-season edition of the Steelers Update podcast.
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Of course, what comes after Big Ben is even scarier for Steelers Nation. The Steelers as we have known them are no more. At least until they find another QB franchise. The last time it took over two decades.
Remember those heady early days when the Steelers finally found a QB franchise again! Ahh nostalgia:
What happened in the days of the “Before Ben” Steelers, young fans you might be asking?
Just encourage your dad or grandfather to tell about the football horrors of the dark years. Those times without a Hall of Famer franchise, like Roethlisberger or Terry Bradshaw. These sad times of the Steelers are marked with my names like Cliff Stoudt, Mark Malone, Bubby Brister, Kordell Stewart, Tommy Maddox.
These fullbacks stepped into starting roles for the Steelers led mostly mediocre seasons when all you could count on in Pittsburgh was defense and a running game. At least the NFL made it possible for teams to actually play defense in the 1980s and 90s. That is not the case today.
A Steelers without Roethlisberger could be in real trouble. Yet this is no choice. Because after the Browns’ loss – and season-ending fainting after an 11-0 start – it’s painfully clear that Ben is no longer Ben.
For the Browns: No coach, no problem:
The mood in Pittsburgh:
This has just happened, to be deposited in the “Too Little, Too Late” department:
Roethlisberger is signed for the 2021 season – a cap of $ 41 million for the already short Steelers. Still, Ben’s retirement or release would only save half that amount. In other words, it’s not about the money.
But rest assured, plenty of Pittsburgh’s plethora of player departures. Chief among them is expected to be JuJu Smith-Schuster, the fan-favorite catcher and social media geek. But JuJu may have gone too far with a Tik-Tok. Here’s winner Baker Mayfield giving it back right away, as JuJu gets his righteous desserts:
Despite everything, JuJu will always have its defenders in Pittsburgh. But is there really a defense for this? To me, it’s like JuJu dancing on his team’s playoff grave:
If JuJu goes, the Steelers have a lot of depth in the social media stance – unfortunately. To witness it:
In the midst of the ashes of the 2020 season, the evidence is there and the fact that our franchise quarterback – a Steelers staple for nearly two decades – isn’t the same winning sniper. The Steelers have done their best to reorganize the offense to cover Big Ben’s physical limitations. This led to an 11-0 start. But it was built on smoke and mirrors. It all fell apart against the Browns.
The result has Steelers scribes saying the unthinkable:
And to be sure, the Browns’ victory wasn’t just over Big Ben. Not far away:
Ben was left to contemplate the future during his long break on the bench after the game. We saw the aging quarterback behind the curtain – Ben’s shaky knees, a surgically repaired throwing elbow, and a deep ball that’s no longer accurate.
It made a poignant moment for Pittsburgh powerful enough to spark tears:
Painful? Sure. But also inevitable. It happens to all players. Father Time is undefeated.
Now it’s up to Ben – and the Steelers – to make the right decision.
Times in Steelers Nation are changing. The 2021 roster of the salary cap team could be largely unrecognizable. The Pittsburgh purge is approaching.
Ben Roethlisberger’s next team is expected to be among the game’s immortals who reside at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
Not the 2021 Steelers. It won’t be a team for the old quarterbacks.
Jean Luciew is an award-winning reporter for PennLive and a 25-year Steelers season ticket holder. His column and podcast are presented from the obsessively over-informed perspective of an avid Steelers fan. Check out his latest Steelers podcast every Wednesday afternoon, wherever podcasts are.