Steeler's Opponent this Sunday is Exactly Why I'm Hesitant to Move on From Big Ben

Matt Freed/Pittsburgh Post Gazette

For better or worse, the quarterback position has become the most important single position in all major professional sports.  There is not a position in any other major team sport that has such a complete impact on their team based on their own performance.  

This newfound quarterback importance has not been good for the Pittsburgh Steelers this season because quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been performing poorly.  He has overthrown receivers, been rendered immobile by age, and his timing is very off.  The desire among Pittsburgh fans to replace the legendary quarterback is growing with each loss.  However, as the Steelers are set to take on the Denver Broncos this Sunday, it is this opponent in particular, that makes me hesitant to support that move.

Broncos QBs

Since Big Ben was drafted by the Steelers in 2004, the Broncos have had nine different starting quarterbacks start 10 or more games.  The Steelers have had one, Ben Roethlisberger.  Also in that time span, the Broncos have had five losing seasons versus the Steeler’s zero and the Broncos have one Super Bowl against the Steelers’ two. Aside from games missed due to injury, Ben has been as stable of a presence on the Steelers roster as anyone in the league. 

Not having a productive starting quarterback across several seasons can be extremely frustrating.  Aside from Peyton Manning, the Broncos have been struggling to find someone stable for quite some time.  They have bounced to different guys not just from season to season, but also have used different starters within the same season across the past 15 or so years.  I am weary of days ahead like that for the Steelers.

Similar Situations

Additionally, the next step many fans wish to pursue is similar to one the Broncos took themselves.  Before the 2012 season, the Broncos signed Indianapolis Colts legend, Peyton Manning.  He was the sort of guy who seemed like he would be a Colt for life after winning a Super Bowl for Indianapolis, the team that drafted him first overall in 1998. 

A similar feeling had surrounded Aaron Rodgers, who has been with the Green Bay Packers since 2005.  The Packers showed faith in Rodgers after he fell way down the draft board at 24th.  Rodgers won a Super Bowl with Green Bay in 2011.  However, ill feelings between the star quarterback and the Packers front office were exposed this offseason and there was uncertainty that Rodgers would even return this season.

Steeler fans want the team to make the same move the Broncos did in 2012: acquire a veteran superstar, and Super Bowl winning, quarterback who has been with the same team his whole career.  This being, the aforementioned Aaron Rodgers.  It would very similar of a move to when the Broncos acquired Manning and it won them a Super Bowl.

However, what Steeler fans are quick to forget is that the Broncos of 2015 were a lot better than the Steelers of 2021, or what they are expected to be in 2022.  First of all, the Broncos defense was one of the best in the league.  They had given up only 296 points all season. 

The Steelers this season, with Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden, are on pace to give up 372 points.  The Steelers will most likely not have Haden next season and there is also a small chance star safety Minkah Fitzpatrick holds out.  The Steelers defense is above average, but they have not proven themselves as solid so far as that Broncos defense was during the Manning years.

Additionally, the Broncos were able to take some of the pressure off of Manning by establishing a great run game.  In their Super Bowl season, the Broncos averaged 4.2 yards per attempt rushing on 411 attempts.  The Steelers this season are averaging just 3.3 yards per attempt and they are only on pace to run the ball about 275 times. 

So sure, the Steelers could do a similar move as Sunday’s opponent did and add a new veteran QB to try and take them over the top.  However, the Steelers are not in line to fix just one position and automatically be a Super Bowl team.  I would also rather replace Ben with a drafted quarterback that can be here for the long term so we are not fumbling for Rodgers' next replacement as the Broncos have been since Manning retired.  It would be a true Super Bowl or bust move, with a potential follow up of many down years after, and I do not feel the Steelers are in a position right now to make that move.

Plus, Ben says his issues have been mostly footwork which he feels he can fix.  For all of the amazing sports memories he has given all of us, I think he deserves our benefit of the doubt.  But he has to prove it, and I hope he does on Sunday.