The only thing more painful than leaving a franchise quarterback behind too quickly is holding on to one too long.
Three weeks into the season, it’s become painfully clear that the pittsburgh steelers miscalculated in bringing back ben roethlisberger for one last trip. the future hall of fame is well cooked. And now the Steelers, who are 1-2 after losing to the Bengals on Sunday, are eyeing the possibility of finishing last in their division for the first time since 1988.
Reading: Big ben falling down steelers
If you want to find a microcosm for everything that’s wrong with Roethlisberger and the Steelers’ offense, you don’t need to look far. Take the fourth-and-10 call that ended any chance of the Steelers winning on Sunday. Down 14 points, with the ball in the red zone, Pittsburgh had one final chance to get back in the game:
at first glance, it’s puzzling. fun even. Did Ben Roethlisberger Really Throw a Swing Pass Behind the Line of Scrimmage on Fourth and 10? on the second, fourth and tenth viewing it becomes sad.
there was no separation in the field. Roethlisberger’s protection did not hold. the 39-year-old’s inability to move out of the pocket or dance within it forced him to serve the ball to the first player he could find. That player, Najee Harris, the team’s most recent first-round pick, was absorbed by five Cincinnati tacklers.
It’s not particularly hard to figure out the problems with the Steelers: sub-par offensive coach, sub-par quarterback play, and questionable roster construction.
even his defense, brimming with talent, was beaten on Sunday by a mediocre team of flares. With TJ Watt and Alex Highsmith out with injuries, Pittsburgh finished with zero sacks and zero hits to the quarterback; the team’s pressure rate of 5.6% was the lowest rate the team has had since the league began tracking the stat. It was an ugly performance overall.
but it’s the offense, and roethlisberger, where the main problems lie.
roethlisberger is a dinosaur fighting extinction, a rhythmic passer who moves the chains in a league that now demands explosive, direct passing play. The noisy, wobbly Big Ben of yesteryear has been missing for most of the last five years. now, he’s a back-foot, kick-out type of player, lacking the artistry that elevated him from fine player to hall of famer.
The Steelers elevated Matt Canada from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator this offseason in an attempt to give Roethlisberger a sketchy fountain of youth. The whole conceit of Canada’s offense is to use pre-snap disguises (moves and changes) to confuse the defense. confuse and hit, they call it. it is a continuous movement: you think the ball is here and then, surprise!, it is there.
The only real surprise so far is that the Steelers thought such a system, one that struggled at the highest levels of the college game, would work on a field full of pros, and that they believed that Tricks could cover up Roethlisberger’s declining effectiveness and lack of talent on the team’s offensive line.
against the bengalis, roethlisberger completed 38 of 58 passes, throwing a touchdown and two interceptions. he averaged 5.5 yards per completion worth a 3-pointer, with 32 of his 38 completions coming within 10 yards. that’s the kind of total that would normally bench a quarterback.
but the steelers have no other options. They chose to travel with Roethlisberger for one more season rather than jump into last offseason’s quarterback musical chairs game. Opportunities to write a successor passed. They did not engage in conversations for Matthew Stafford. Even when the Jaguars made Gardner Minshew available for the measly price of a sixth-round pick, the Steelers opted out.
Standing firm can be the riskiest path. The point of holding on to Roethlisberger was that while his physical gifts would continue to wane, his experience as a veteran could guide the Steelers through games: his knowledge of coverage, his handling of the game. and that Canada’s new offense would take advantage of the confusion to facilitate completions and yardage.
did not work. The offense has been strained, Roethlisberger is a sad shadow of his former self, without the ability to push the ball down the field, tripping over his own feet, indecision seeps through the screen.
Without a future to fall back on, the Steelers face a long 14 weeks.
quote of the week
“I love you, man!” – rams defensive star aaron donald to matthew stafford.
You almost have to feel sorry for jared goff right now. Rams players, staff, fans, ticket attendants, hot dog vendors, security personnel are all giddy watching Matthew Stafford operating Sean McVay’s offense. The Rams beat a battered Bucs team 34-24 in what could be a sneak preview of the NFC Championship Game. on both sides of the ball, the rams seemed faster and more skilled than the bucs. And though Stafford had his ups and downs early on, he made enough big plays to make a difference.
video of the week
It was a special teams bonanza on Sunday. To recap: Justin Tucker made the longest field goal in league history, hitting a 66-yard shot from the crossbar to sink the Lions as time expired; an official missed a punt return on behalf of the Cardinals, throwing his flag at the ball as he fell toward the man who returned; And Washington kicker Dustin Hopkins recovered his own kick against the bills from a kickoff that wasn’t an onside kick.
but the wildest play of all came in jacksonville. With two seconds remaining in the first half, Cardinals kicker Matt Prater was asked to attempt a record-setting 68-yard field goal. the result: a beautiful mess.
lost talk. Jamal Agnes returned the kick for a 109-yard, six-kickback return, tied for the longest touchdown run in NFL history. gus johnson, working the game for fox, self-immolated:
new rule: johnson must work all future cardinal games.
mvp of the week
justin herbert, qb, chargers. Sunday’s victory over the Chiefs served as a breakthrough for Herbert, his coach Brandon Staley and the Chargers. Herbert threw for 281 yards and four touchdowns on the road, punishing the Chiefs for a series of (now trademark) sloppy errors.
LA offensive coordinator joe lombardi had herbert pick up the pace, throwing off a chiefs defense that couldn’t line up before the snap. While the Chiefs continued to stumble on offense, Herbert played fair game, taking anything that came his way without forcing the issue. it was a mature performance from a quarterback who is rapidly evolving from a fun player who throws “wow” throws to a winner jump on my cape… who throws “wow”.
The Chargers win leaves the Chiefs 1-2 on the season, which makes the race for the AFC West quite interesting.
espn also reported that chiefs coach andy reid had been taken to the hospital as a precaution after feeling unwell. Let’s hope a good coach, and one of the best people in the league, makes a good recovery.
statistic of the week
The Bears averaged 1.1 yards per play against the Browns, the second fewest of any team in a game this century.
It’s hard to imagine how Justin Fields’ first start as Bears quarterback could have gone any worse. you can choose from any number of measly stats from the bears’ 26-6 loss to the browns:
– the fields were looted nine times.
– the fields were filled in only six passes.
– fields was pressed on 55% of his pullbacks.
– the bears finished the game with one (!) passing yard, the lowest total for any team since 2009.
– the last time a browns defense held a team within 47 yards of offense, they were playing the new york yankees of the football conference. the year was 1946.
However, little blame should fall on the feet of the fields. his offensive line was totally ill-equipped to deal with one of the best rushing units in the league. while his coach, matt nagy, continued to spout the same uninspired nonsense that he has been inflicting on the franchise since the 2018 season.
elsewhere in the league
– the bills defeated washington 43-21 to move to 2-1 on the season. Josh Allen and the Ticket offense have now recorded 78 points and 10 touchdowns in the last two weeks against two of the strongest defenses in the league. After an inexplicable loss in week one to the Steelers, the Bills now have the look of an honest giant. allen is playing at an mvp level. the defense is feisty. the division: a breeze. With the Chiefs’ shaky start to the season, the Bills should be favorites to secure home-field advantage in the AFC during the playoffs.
– Aaron Rodgers had 37 seconds left to lead the Packers out of a 28-27 hole against the 49ers in Sunday night football. You’ve seen this before: He led them down the field and Mason Crosby did the rest, kicking a 54-yard field goal to give Green Bay a last-gasp victory. Rodgers threw two touchdowns and zero interceptions: that clunker he played in the first week is seen more and more as an anomaly than a trend.
– It’s only week three, but it already feels like the titans are going to lose to the afc south. Tennessee beat Indianapolis 26-16 to put the Colts in an 0-3 hole. add to that: the titans take on the jets and jaguars for the next two weeks. Given the dysfunction in Houston, the rebuilding in Jacksonville, and the mountain of injuries in Indianapolis, the Titans have as clear a path to a division title as any.
– kirk cous is playing as well as any quarterback in the league. Through three weeks, he has thrown for just under 1,000 yards, eight touchdowns and zero interceptions. After two brutal losses, the Cousins led the Vikings to a 30-17 victory over the Seahawks. Going into the season, it was fair to wonder about the cousins’ long-term status with this team. But so far, it’s been Minnesota’s defense that has slowed the team down.
– new season. new regime. new quarterback. same jets. There’s nothing more difficult for a rookie quarterback than facing Bill Belichick and Vic Fangio in back-to-back weeks. Still: The Jets’ 26-0 loss to the Broncos was wince-inducing. any preseason optimism has already faded.