The Pittsburgh Steelers are poised for another run at the Super Bowl, with megastars like Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell, and veteran QB Ben Roethlisberger leading the offense all they need is a few tweaks on the defensive side of the ball and they could easily be champions again (an offseason by the Patriots won’t hurt either).
This offseason, the Steelers management went to work trying to figure out who they will draft, what free agents they can sign to improve the team, signing Brown to long-term four-year extension worth $68 million, and placing the franchise tag on Bell which gives him over $12 million for this season and a full season to work out an extension.
Everything was going great until Ben Roethlisberger the Steeler’s star quarterback for the last 13 years hinted that he was considering retiring. Big Ben, as he is known, as made everyone in Steeler Nation do a double take, no one not even Pittsburgh management had even considered him leaning towards calling it quits.
This slight hint with three years remaining on his current contract, did, however, get people thinking, what are the Steelers plans for after Big Ben? Who is going to run this high-powered offense? How will this effect Brown’s career?
Before we break down who will replace Big Ben lets look at the impact he has had on the Steelers:
Big Ben holds multiple Steeler QB records such as most games played (169) and most wins (113). He led the team to the postseason in nine of his 13 years behind center, leading them to three Super Bowls, winning two, and was the youngest QB to ever win a Super Bowl (SB XL).
He was named the NFL Offensive Rookie Of The Year in 2004 and holds the best record for any QB in NFL history in the month of October going 18-1. These are just some of the highlights in his Hall of Fame career.
His career stats put him among the best in the game, highlighted by having 46,814 yards passing, 3,804 completions, 301 touchdowns and a QB rating of 94.1, not to mention how he can move around the field for his size (6’5, 240 pounds). These are some big shoes to fill and will be a daunting task for the management team when the time comes.
Let us look at a few options that the Steelers have to replace Big Ben.
The Steelers have two QB’s already playing behind Big Ben, Landry Jones, and Zach Mettenberger. Jones has already started four games for Pittsburgh in the past two seasons with mixed results he has seven TDs and six INTs, with only a career rating of 82.8.
At 28 years of age, and the fact that the Steelers signed Michael Vick two seasons ago to help the team when Ben got hurt, tells me he won’t be replacing anyone probably on any team in the near or far future. The only thing Mettenberger will replace if Ben bolts are the first eight letters on Big Ben’s jersey.
Not only has he not played a game for the Steelers since signing there in 2016 the ten starts he did get in Tennessee where nothing special. So at this point, there is no looking into the teams’ organization for a solution to replacing Roethlisberger.
Roethlisberger has three years left on his contract and each of the next three years there will be some big name QBs that will become free agents in 2018 you will have Drew Brees, Matthew Stafford, Derek Carr, Kirk Cousins, and Jimmy Garoppolo.
2019 will be names like Carson Palmer, Matt Ryan, Alex Smith and Trevor Siemian, then in 2020 is a who’s who of QBs which include Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Cam Newton, Dak Prescott, and Eli Manning.
With some very big names becoming available over the next three years we can realistically assume that Big Ben will play out his contract and rule out any big name free agents before 2020 such as Brees, Stafford, Cousins, Palmer, Smith, and Ryan.
However, there are a few good young QBs that the Steelers could look at such as Carr, Garoppolo, and Siemian. These three due to their age could come in handy to back up Big Ben for a year or two, then take over the reins after Bens contract runs out, they would all still be under thirty and provide them with a solid backup if anything should happen to Roethlisberger in the time before his contract is over.
Finally, in 2020 they have the option if available to sign some young talent such as Prescott, Jameis Winston, and Marcus Mariota all three will only be 26 and have a few years’ experience under their belt, or they could sign veterans like Wilson or Newton who will still only be 31 and 30 respectively. Either way they go the QB free agent market will be full of talented players for the Steelers to look at it.
The Steelers drafted Joshua Dobbs in the 4th round 135th overall; the 22-year-old 6’3, 216 pound quarterback was 3-0 in Bowl games and had a 23-12 record playing for Tennessee.
He tied for the fifth most wins at QB in team history and set school records for rushing yards by a QB (2,160), rushing TDs (12), single season rushing yards by a QB (831) and single season rushing TDs with 12. He is ranked third in Tennessee history in total yards (9,360).
He also is one of four conference QBs to have over 50 passing TDs and 25 career rushing scores.
The pedigree is there for Dobbs to take over in a few years, the timing could be perfect for him if Big Ben retires after his contract. The Steelers also have undrafted Bart Houston out of Wisconsin. Although he platooned at QB last season, the 6’4 235 pound Houston finished with a 4-1 record and helped UW defeat Western Michigan in the Cotton Bowl, by completing 11 of 12 passes for 159 yards.
So far in the preseason, Houston is outplaying Dobbs, but Dobbs is the QB the team has in mind for the future; he is struggling with bad and poorly timed throws, but is a work in progress and should develop well this season as the third string QB.
It would seem like the Steelers have many options in the next three seasons to find a good replacement for Big Ben. They could go with a young FA, an aging veteran or a rookie QB that they can mould to their system.
Either way, there is no need to fear in Steelers Nation, After all, they did reach the Super Bowl with some guy named Neil O’Donnell.