Big Ben Throwing Again
After a lost 2019 season, the Steelers’ All-Pro quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, is back chucking the pigskin and the early results are encouraging. GM Kevin Colbert remarked, “We’re just really focused on where Ben is at this point. Unfortunately, he had a season-ending injury that we think he can and will recover from moving forward. It’s just a wait-and-see. He had an injury to his right arm, but other than that, he’s relatively healthy. We’re not minimizing the right arm injury to a right arm quarterback, but we don’t think he’s at the end of the road.”
In a day and age where quarterbacks’ lifespans are getting markedly longer, the 38-year-old will be counted on to bring the Pittsburgh Steelers back into playoff contention after a forgettable season in which the team vacillated between Mason Rudolph and Duck Hodges under center leading to a pedestrian 8-8 campaign. But if we take a quick check at the best online sportsbooks, we see that the NFL odds on the Steelers are +3300 to win the Super Bowl which places them in the middle of the pack.
Those rather pessimistic odds are due in large part to Big Ben’s fragility over the duration of his career and knowing that it is more likely than not that he will miss at least some of the season due to injury but the question is – how much?
Pittsburgh Feeling a Draft
The NFL draft is still several weeks away and much could change between now and then. However, what we do know is that the Pittsburgh Steelers will be without a 1st and 3rd-round pick due to their trading spree last season which saw them wheeling their 2020 first-rounder to the Dolphins for Minkah Fitzpatrick and trading up for the right to pluck Devin Bush at No.10 overall. So, as it stands right now, Pittsburgh will be announcing their first pick of the 2020 draft at No. 49 of the second-round and their needs are many. Let’s discuss which positions need to be filled first and foremost when the Steelers are called to the podium.
- Tight End – The Steelers are unlikely to pick up top tight end Vance McDonald’s team option in 2020 after the 29-year-old registered 38 receptions on 55 targets for 273 yards and three trips into the end zone. Yet, there is the possibility they could come to terms on a restructure of his contract but in the event that doesn’t pan out then Pittsburgh will need a big target for Big Ben and his name could very well be Hunter Bryant, a junior out of Washington who stands 6’2” and weighs in at about 240 pounds. Unlike last year when the draft was tight end heavy with the talented triumvirate of T.J. Hockenson (No. 9 to Detroit), Noah Fant (No. 20 to Denver), and Irv Smith (No.50 to Minnesota), this year’s draft will see two of the biggest names, Hunter Bryant and Brycen Hopkins of Purdue, being plucked in the second or third round. Bryant is a dynamic player who can be used as a flex option in the passing game and could open up the slot with good hands and plenty of speed, for a man his size, after the catch.
- Wide Receiver – This year’s draft is fertile ground for talented wide receivers and the conventional wisdom is that the Steelers would opt to choose one in the third-round if they had their druthers knowing the true elites like Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb or Alabama’s twin terrors, Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III, would be gone early. However, Pittsburgh may not gamble that a game-changing wideout is still hanging around in the fourth-round which means a playmaker like TCU’s Jalen Raegor could be too tempting to pass up if he is still available in the middle of the second round.
- Quarterback – If the Steelers believe that Roethlisberger has this year, and this year only, to take the Steelers to the Promised Land before his tank runs completely dry then selecting a quarterback in the second round would not be as preposterous as one might think. Here’s the logic. Had Roethlisberger been healthy last season there is little doubt Pittsburgh would have had an extra two, three, maybe even four, notches in the win column, particularly when one considers the charade of musical chairs at quarterback between a pair of serviceable backups in Rudolph and Hodges.
The core group as it stands is talented enough to make a run at the postseason with a QB like Roethlisberger under center but would adding a tight end in the second round put them over the top? Probably not, so in that case, why not prepare for life without Big Ben in the form of Utah State’s Jordan Love, Washington’s Jacob Eason, Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts, or maybe even Georgia’s Jake Fromm?
We will soon find out which road the Steelers will follow as they determine whether Ben Roethlisberger’s curtain call will be at the end of this season or if he has a few more performances left in the Steel City.
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