The Pittsburgh Steelers need to think about life after Ben Roethlisberger.
Ben Roethlisberger has usually been able to fight through his many injuries in the past. Then came the 2019 season when he was limited to a total of two games. That was bad news for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Mason Rudolph and Devlin “Duck” Hodges split the remaining playing time and neither did anything too special. The final result was an 8-8 record, and that reality of life without Roethlisberger should have the Steelers planning for once he is retired.
Ben Roethlisberger is nearing retirement
Roethlisberger was openly not thrilled about the Steelers drafting Rudolph in 2018, even though the quarterback was a third-round selection. The Oklahoma State product was hyped by Mike Tomlin, but managed to throw for 13 touchdowns compared to nine interceptions in 10 games last season.
Rudolph’s most notable moment of the year was getting hit over the head by Cleveland Browns defender Myles Garrett. That is not a joke, but rather a fact about how his play on the field was not too memorable.
Hodges’ contributions were all a bonus, and while he showed some promise at first, the Samford product finished with five touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Roethlisberger now enters the 2020 season as the starter once again at the age of 38. What we do know is he likely isn’t going anywhere until after the 2021 season unless the Steelers want to take on a huge dead cap hit that year. He is set to be a $41.25 million cap hit in 2021 with a dead cap value of $22.25 million. There are savings of $19 million in place, but that is still a steep price to pay for someone not even on the roster.
The Steelers have put off drafting his replacement for quite some time, unlike what we just saw with the Green Bay Packers and Aaron Rodgers. Roethlisberger getting injured last year seemed like a sign, but the team put it off once again.
An injury in 2020 should force the Steelers to finally draft his replacement in 2021. Failing to do that and just letting him play out his contract could lead to a rebuilding period that isn’t necessary if the team just plans ahead by a year.
It doesn’t matter if the veteran complains. The Steelers have been one of the more consistent franchises in recent NFL history, and while a lot of that is due to Roethlisberger, it is also because the team is smart. There is also no downside to having a top quarterback prospect learn behind a future Hall of Fame quarterback from the sidelines.
The Steelers should be drafting a replacement even if Roethlisberger is healthy all year. That is true even if he leads the team back to the Super Bowl. Time is running out in his career, and even if he plays beyond 2021, there is no reason why the Steelers have to be on his clock in order to please him. Football is a business, and having a proper backup plan in place will help the Steelers remain elite into the future.