The end of the Ben Roethlisberger era with the Pittsburgh Steelers is likely coming after the 2021 season. If he does retire, the front office will have its work cut out to find Roethlisberger’s replacement. NFL Draft insider Todd McShay believes the Steelers will look right in their backyard and select Pitt’s Kenny Pickett.
Ben Roethlisberger is on his last legs in the NFL
Who knew that when the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted Ben Roethlisberger at No. 11 overall in 2004, he’d make such a lasting impression on the franchise? However, his tenure with the organization could be over after 18 seasons.
Roethlisberger is now 39 years old and far removed from the player he was during his prime years. Signs of a decline started to show a couple of years ago, but they’re even more evident now.
One thing you can’t question about Big Ben is his toughness, though. Every game, he brings his best and fights until the end. The issue is that his best isn’t good enough to get the Steelers where they want to be.
Given his age, the Ohio native doesn’t possess the same mobility or decision-making that helped him build a sustainable career.
Big Ben has thrown for 3,066 yards, 19 touchdowns, and seven interceptions in 2021 while completing 65.3% of his passes. He’s certainly not the worst quarterback in the NFL, but Pittsburgh needs more from the position if it wants to win anything.
Retirement seems like the best option for both sides. Ben Roethlisberger has enjoyed a potentially Hall of Fame-worthy career. He’s amassed 63,414 passing yards, 415 touchdowns, and 208 interceptions in 245 games. He’s a 6-time Pro Bowler with two Super Bowl rings. He should have nothing left to prove.
On the flip side, Pittsburgh has some building blocks on its roster. However, inconsistency at quarterback is one of the main factors holding the offense back.
Todd McShay mocks Kenny Pickett to the Steelers
Several teams will be in the market for a quarterback in the offseason, including the Steelers. Kenny Pickett is arguably the best quarterback in the 2022 NFL Draft class. General manager Kevin Colbert is prime to land the University of Pittsburgh standout.
ESPN NFL draft analyst Todd McShay recently released his early mock draft for 2022. With a 6-6-1 record, the Steelers currently hold the 12th overall pick. McShay has Pittsburgh pulling the trigger on Pickett.
“Ben Roethlisberger is likely in his final season, and his successor is not currently in the building,” said McShay. “The Steelers’ offense has playmakers, but it needs someone who can distribute them the ball as the team tries to stay competitive in an AFC North division stacked with young franchise QBs.”
McShay believes Kenny Pickett fits that bill and could be a seamless fit in the Steelers’ offensive scheme.
“Pickett moves through his progressions and gets the ball out quickly,” he added. “He has the class’ best combination of pocket awareness, accuracy, and decision-making — which I think are the three most critical traits when projecting a quarterback forward to the NFL.”
Todd McShay projects Pickett will be the first quarterback off the board, followed by Ole Miss’ Matt Corral going to Washington at No. 13 overall.
Pittsburgh cannot go into 2022 with one of its backups
Some analysts like former Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark have called for Mike Tomlin to bench Ben Roethlisberger. However, it’s not that easy.
If you look at the Steelers’ depth chart, it’s not difficult to see why the team can’t move on from Big Ben just yet. The backup quarterbacks on the roster are Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins Jr.
Let’s start with the guy who’s actually played in the 2021 season.
Mason Rudolph started the Week 10 game against the Detroit Lions. Big Ben missed the game because Pittsburgh placed him on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Rudolph threw for 242 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. The Oklahoma State product threw the ball 50 times, which was a recipe for disaster.
The Steelers struggled in Roethlisberger’s absence, ending the game with a 16-16 tie. Rudolph made eight starts in 2019 but hardly proved he could be a starter in the NFL.
As for Haskins, well, he’s a major disappointment. The former 4-star prospect played two seasons at Ohio State and enjoyed a breakout as a sophomore. Haskins’ performance helped him climb some draft boards.
When Washington selected him with the No. 15 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, it hoped he could be its franchise quarterback. However, immaturity and lack of on-field development got Haskins ousted after two seasons.
Pittsburgh gave Haskins a second chance, but he’s sitting behind Rudolph on the depth chart, which says a lot.
The Steelers must look elsewhere to replace Ben Roethlisberger. Heisman Trophy finalist Kenny Pickett makes perfect sense because he has all the tools necessary to flourish in Steel City.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference