The Pittsburgh Steelers’ quarterback situation isn’t ideal, we’ll put it that way. With Ben Roethlisberger facing uncertainty with his future, and that is putting it mildly, the Steelers don’t have much proven depth on their quarterback depth chart.
If Roethlisberger returns, he carries with him a hefty $41 million dollar salary cap hit. If Roethlisberger retires, or is nudged out the door, it would save the Steelers roughly $19 million on the salary cap, but turn the keys over to one of the following scenarios:
Mason Rudolph takes over as the starter.
Dwayne Haskins proves he is worthy to start.
The Steelers draft a quarterback and go all-in on that project from Day 1.
Clearly, the overall trajectory of the Steelers’ quarterback position hinges on the decision Roethlisberger faces this offseason.
But how does the Steelers’ quarterback situation rank among that of their peers? Pro Football Focus (PFF) recently ranked the 5 worst quarterback situations heading into the 2021 regular season. Where do the Steelers rank? You guessed it…No. 1.
Take a look at why PFF believes the Steelers have the worst quarterback situation in the NFL;
1. PITTSBURGH STEELERS
2020 QB(s): Ben Roethlisberger
Projected 2021 cap space: -$21 million
Whether we are looking at the 11-0 start or the 1-5 finish, Ben Roethlisberger was not performing all that well relative to his counterparts. He had just one game with a PFF grade above 80.0 on the year and finished the season with a 69.0 mark (24th). His downfield passing was inconsistent, as he produced the sixth-worst uncatchable pass rate when targeting the sticks. He and the Steelers were reliant on receivers making plays after the catch and on third down.
There were signs of Big Ben declining back in 2018 when he earned a 75.2 passing grade, and he looked rough in his lone start in 2019 before suffering a season-ending elbow injury. In other words, we could see this coming.
BEST-CASE SCENARIO: Parting ways with Roethlisberger and focusing on a rebuild while taking a shot on a quarterback such as Kyle Trask or Jamie Newman on Day 2 of the 2021 NFL Draft
There really isn’t a glaring best-case scenario for Pittsburgh’s quarterback dilemma. The Steelers’ cap situation and draft capital are not ideal, and Roethlisberger is likely to return for the 2021 season, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The best thing to do in this situation is to part ways with Big Ben and begin rebuilding while taking a shot on a quarterback on Day 2 of the 2021 NFL Draft. On the bright side, they can still do the latter even with Roethlisberger returning.
Florida’s Kyle Trask is one of the two options the Steelers could consider in April. He isn’t a perfect quarterback prospect — hence, why he is a Day 2 player — but Trask does check the accuracy box with flying colors. The big concerns with him are his ability, or lack thereof, to make NFL throws over the middle of the field and his slow processing and playmaking ability out of structure.
Jamie Newman is another option in Day 2 and is in that range solely because he is a complete wild card. He was supposed to be the starting quarterback for the Georgia Bulldogs this season after transferring from Wake Forest, but he decided to opt out due to COVID-19. We fully believed Newman would be able to have a big-time breakout in 2020 due to going from an up-tempo, RPO-heavy offense at Wake to a more pro-style group with Todd Monken at Georgia. But the quarterback never was able to prove that to be the case.
Newman’s accuracy, touch and ball placement were tremendous at Wake in 2019, and that helped him rank behind only Joe Burrow in the Power Five in deep passing grade. He made the most of a bad situation with Demon Deacons’ offense, which also leaned on him too much in the run game. Newman athleticism is special, but his arm talent is even better. He also had to throw into a tight window at the highest rate in the FBS in 2019 due to the offense and lack of separators, but he still managed to once again rank behind only Burrow in tight-window passing grade. He’s a high-risk, high-reward prospect.
WORST-CASE SCENARIO: Keeping Roethlisberger around
Roethlisberger is planning on returning to Pittsburgh for the 2021 season. That would, in turn, trigger a $41.25 million cap hit for the Steelers, who are already in salary-cap hell. If he were to retire — whether it be forced or not — Pittsburgh would still take on $22.25 million in dead cap but would be off the hook for $19 million. Neither seems likely at this point, so Big Ben looks like he will remain on the Steelers’ roster for 2021 and account for nearly a quarter of the salary cap.
It is the worst-case scenario for Pittsburgh’s quarterback situation and the most likely one to occur at this point. This is obviously not good for the Steelers in 2021 and beyond.
After reading that, do you tend to agree with PFF’s analysis of the Steelers’ quarterback situation? Before judging, take a look at the Top 5 worst situations:
It should be noted this article was written just before the Steelers added Haskins to their depth chart, but I’m not sure that would have made much of a difference. Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the new league year, NFL Free Agency and the 2021 NFL Draft.