The answer to this question in week 8 was probably much different than the answer heading into the final week of the 2020 season.
There is no doubting Big Ben’s experience and his accomplishments over the course of his career.
However, his recent play has brought to light some doubts about the 38-year-old veteran’s physical abilities — particularly his arm strength.
Ben Roethlisberger on throws 10+ yards vs. Bengals:
▪️ 1 TD
▪️ 1 INT pic.twitter.com/vcFZswvrX8
— PFF (@PFF) December 22, 2020
Through the first ten weeks of the season, Big Ben was completing 66% of his passes, threw 22 touchdowns compared to only 4 interceptions, and averaged 6.79 yards per passing attempt.
More importantly, the Steelers were 9-0 over this stretch.
Since week 11, he is completing passes at a lower rate (64%), turning the ball over at a higher rate (6 interceptions and 1 lost fumble), and has struggled to push the ball down the field averaging fewer yards per attempt (5.61).
The Steelers are 3-3 over this six game stretch leading many to believe that Roethlisberger’s decline in production is to blame.
If the franchise does believe it is time to move on from the Hall of Fame quarterback after this season, there is a former MVP candidate who may be on the market: Carson Wentz.
Unlike the elder Roethlisberger, Wentz’s physical tools cannot be questioned as his arm strength and mobility are near the top of the league among quarterbacks.
It is his decision making ability that has come into question as of late.
So should the Steelers trade for the young, gifted QB?
When comparing the two quarterbacks’ physical abilities, it seems like a no-brainer, but like everything else in life, it is much more complicated.
A trade for Carson Wentz would be a logistical nightmare when it comes to navigating Roethlisberger’s and Wentz’s contract.
Big Ben is signed through the 2021 season and is set to make another $34 million. Wentz is signed through 2024 and prepped to bring in $32 million a year.
Letting Roethlisberger go would cost the Steelers just over $22 million in dead cap space.
A Wentz-less Eagles roster in 2021 would cost the team over $59 million in dead money.
It is hard to imagine them taking that much of a financial hit to get rid of a quarterback who has won them two Super Bowls and just led them to an AFC North title only to add another QB who is just as expensive — not to mention what they would have to give up to get him.
It is also difficult to see another team willing to trade for the aging signal caller and taking on his contract.
The Steelers finally have a more functional locker room now that Le’veon Bell and Antonio Brown are no longer with the team.
Does Mike Tomlin really want to create more drama in the locker room by letting the team’s backbone walk away?
Steelers’ QB Ben Roethlisberger, who leads Pittsburgh into Cincinnati tonight for Monday Night Football, intends to return next year for his 18th season, per sources.https://t.co/zM748O6w6G
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 21, 2020
Or worse, would he really want to create a quarterback controversy between two guys who have both been franchise quarterbacks?
This is not the same as when the Steelers brought in Michael Vick to backup Roethlisberger in 2015.
Vick, a former franchise quarterback who signed one of the richest contracts in NFL history with the Falcons, was at the end of his career and did not pose a threat to Big Ben’s job.
Wentz is, we think, still a rising prospect who has proven capable of carrying a franchise.
Not only would he be seen as the heir apparent to Roethlisberger, but he would be capable of competing for the starting job next season.
That is certain to cause some tension in the locker room.
A more team-friendly way to tackle the quarterback position for the offseason might be via the draft.
There are up to six college quarterbacks in this year’s draft that evaluators have deemed worthy of a first or second round pick.
It would certainly make more sense financially to draft an up-and-coming prospect and let him sit for a year as Big Ben finishes out his contract.
That would allow the team to have their quarterback for the now and the future on their roster while not taking any cap hits.
It is difficult to see Roethlisberger playing after next season, so the Steelers would have at least three more years of their 2021 draft pick on a rookie deal.
If the team doesn’t fall in love with one of the draft prospects, there are other quarterbacks out there who would be much cheaper and more willing to sit behind Ben for another year.
Not Worth the Headache
At the end of the day, the Steelers would have to put all of their eggs in one basket in order to acquire Carson Wentz, and the cons seem to outweigh the pros.
In order to make this deal worth it, Mike Tomlin and General Manager Kevin Colbert would have to be certain that Wentz can win them multiple Super Bowls over the next 8-10 years.
He is worth the investment for several other teams in need of a quarterback, but with their current situation, I am not sure the Steelers are one of those teams.