Father time is undefeated.
It’s clear Big Ben’s best days are behind him at this phase of his career.
However, the Steelers (5-5-1) are best served to stick with Roethlisberger as long as they are in the hunt to make the playoffs.
For better or for worse, Roethlisberger gives the Steelers their best chance to win.
Picture this. 📸
— Sunday Night Football on NBC (@SNFonNBC) November 29, 2021
Sunday’s Loss To The Bengals
In Sunday’s 41-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, Roethlisberger went 24-of-41 passing for 263 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions.
It included throwing a pick-6 to former Steelers nickelback Mike Hilton.
Hilton’s score helped the Bengals extend their lead to 31-3 at halftime.
It also marked the Bengals’ first defensive touchdown in 43 games, which had been the longest active streak in the NFL.
The box score doesn’t tell the full story: On Sunday, the Steelers mustered only 51 rushing yards.
The Steelers also lost time of possession on Sunday, holding the ball for 24 minutes and 40 seconds.
Mike Hilton with a pick-6 against his former team! #RuleTheJungle
— NFL (@NFL) November 28, 2021
The Offense Has Struggled
In the 2021 season, the Steelers are averaging 112.2 rushing yards per game in their five wins.
Meanwhile, the Steelers average 66.17 rushing yards per game in their six non-wins (the Steelers tied the Lions 16-16 in Week 10).
As of Monday morning, the Steelers’ average of 87.1 rushing yards per game ranks 28th in the NFL.
Owner Art Rooney II made clear his frustrations with the Steelers’ running struggles the past few years by drafting rookie running back Najee Harris in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
Starting left guard Kevin Dotson, whom the Steelers placed on injured reserve a week ago, is a second-year player.
In 2021, the Steelers are due to spend about $12.59 million on their offensive line, which ranks 29th in the NFL.
In life, you get what you pay for.
Shoring up the offensive line should be a priority for the Steelers in the offseason, whether it’s through a high draft pick or free agency.
It doesn’t help that Roethlisberger’s mobility is limited at this point in his career.
Big Ben is a bit of a statue when he drops back to pass, and his ability to make defenders miss isn’t what it was earlier in his career.
Smith-Schuster and Ebron were expected to contribute, especially considering they are both in contract seasons.
It would be a surprise to see Smith-Schuster or Ebron in Steelers uniforms next season.
Plus, receiver and return ace Ray-Ray McCloud didn’t play Sunday after getting put on the Steelers’ reserve/COVID-19 list.
Defense Has Struggled In November
Despite the offense’s woes, the Steelers defense has struggled the last several weeks.
The Steelers have given up a combined 82 points in back-to-back games, which is the most in head coach Mike Tomlin’s tenure.
The old record of 74 points allowed was set in 2013.
In the Steelers’ past four games, they have allowed rushing totals of 136 by the Chicago Bears, 229 by the Lions, 159 by the Los Angeles Chargers, and 198 by the Bengals.
Third-year inside linebacker Devin Bush hasn’t played well coming off a season-ending ACL injury a year ago.
Bush takes scrutiny because he is the Steelers’ highest draft pick of the Mike Tomlin era.
The Steelers traded up to take Bush with the 10th overall pick of the 2019 NFL Draft.
Robert Spillane has also spelled Bush at times this season.
Steelers’ Quarterback Options
Mason Rudolph, 26, is the Steelers’ only quarterback under contract beyond the 2021 season.
Rudolph has struggled in the opportunities he’s had while filling in for Roethlisberger.
Steelers fans will not forget Rudolph’s lackluster performance in the Week 10 tie to the winless Lions, when he went 30-for-50 for 242 passing yards, a touchdown, and an interception.
It remains a mystery why the Steelers had Rudolph throw the ball 50 times when weather played a factor.
Week 10 also marked the only time Dwayne Haskins, 24, has been active in a regular-season game for the Steelers because Roethlisberger was out after testing positive for COVID-19.
It’s telling the Steelers prefer Rudolph over Haskins, who got drafted by Washington in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
Perhaps the Steelers would play Haskins if they get eliminated from the playoffs.
The Steelers started Rudolph eight games (5-3 record) in the 2019 season when Roethlisberger missed 14 games with a season-ending elbow injury.
Rudolph got benched in 2019 in favor of Devlin “Duck” Hodges, who now plays for the Ottawa Redblacks in the Canadian Football League.
Hodges doesn’t even start for his CFL team either.
The Steelers’ only other quarterback is Joshua Dobbs, who is on the team’s reserve/injured list.
Dobbs, 26, has never started a regular-season game.
Who Will Be The QB In 2022?
Tomlin has stated his preference to bring in a veteran quarterback this upcoming offseason versus drafting a rookie.
If the season ended after Sunday, the Steelers would have the 16th overall pick of the 2022 NFL Draft.
In year 15, Tomlin has yet to have a losing season in Pittsburgh.
The streak is in jeopardy this season.
Free agency is also an option, but the list of available quarterbacks is underwhelming.
The Steelers do have the financial flexibility to get creative.
OverTheCap.com shows the Steelers have about $44.55 million in salary-cap space in 2022.
The Steelers are a 7-point underdog to the Packers in Week 4.
One silver lining: We'll get to see how Aaron Rodgers looks before he dons the black and gold in 2022.@Ike_SwagginU thinks my Rodgers-Steelers theory is crazy. https://t.co/3RC75JH1QC @BleavPodcasts | #Steelers pic.twitter.com/fFYhCU5cM6
— Mark Bergin (@mdbergin) September 30, 2021
While the option exists to bring Roethlisberger back on a sweetheart deal for what would be his 19th season, the Steelers would be delaying the inevitable, especially with the continued development of the AFC North’s other starting quarterbacks.