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Athlon editors debate whether Big Ben should play for a different team in 2014
Let’s face it, very little has gone right for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2013. After going 8-8 last season, Mike Tomlin’s team is 3-6 and in last place in the AFC North. The Steelers dropped their first four games to start the season, and two weeks ago set franchise records for most points (55) and yards (610) allowed in a single game.
Injuries have certainly played a role in this season’s struggles, but overall the Steelers are a veteran team whose roster is really starting to show its age, especially on defense, and is in dire need of an infusion of young talent. But should this youth movement also include a change at quarterback?
A report surfaced Sunday that Ben Roethlisberger is “incredibly frustrated” with the current state of the Steelers and would request to be traded during the offseason. While Roethlisberger and everyone else associated with the team has denied the report, it still begs the question — should Pittsburgh trade Big Ben? Athlon editors Braden Gall and Mark Ross play armchair GM for the Steelers.
The list of reasons why it might be time for the Pittsburgh Steelers to part ways with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is getting longer every weekend. The Steelers won on Sunday for the just the third time all season, but Steeler Nation's jubilation was muted by swirling reports that Big Ben wants out of Pittsburgh. And the Steelers should give him what he wants.
Big Ben is due $12.2 million in 2014, however, his salary cap hit is much bigger at $17.9 million. In fact, the Steelers will lose over $35 million on the salary cap over the next two seasons if they keep Roethlisberger. So a restructuring would almost be mandatory unless the Steelers wanted to trade or cut him. Either way, are the Steelers willing to sign Big Ben to a long-term deal at this stage of his career? He will be a very old 32 years of age at the start of next season, considering how many hits he has taken over the years, and restructuring his deal would almost certainly cripple any chance Pittsburgh has of rebuilding quickly. Frankly, there are a dozen teams that would be interested in trading for a two-time Super Bowl champion quarterback. In particular, his former best buddy and coach Bruce Arians in Arizona comes to mind as an attractive trade partner. What would Big Ben be worth? A first-round pick? Two seconds? He still holds plenty of value — but not for much longer.
Lastly, the 2014 NFL Draft class of quarterbacks might be the best in history. Upwards of a dozen signal-callers could grade out as a first-rounder. Meaning, Pittsburgh could get one or two quality, young quarterbacks in the second and third rounds of the May draft because the depth of the position is so impressive. Especially, with some extra picks.
— Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Pittsburgh isn’t very good this year and the team isn’t getting any younger either, especially on defense. No one can blame Ben Roethlisberger for being frustrated with the direction the franchise is headed, but he also vehemently denied the report that he will seek a trade when this season is over. And if I were the Steelers, I wouldn’t look to trade my franchise quarterback, unless there’s some team out there that is willing to pay a very hefty price.
Speaking of price, Roethlisbeger has two years left on his contract, which admittedly isn’t very cap-friendly. However, a restructuring or some sort of extension would more than likely help soften the blow and allow the team the ability to restock the roster in the process. Roethlisberger may seem “old,” but he’s just 31 and has proven that he’s one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. He has 90 career regular-season victories in 10 seasons, another 10 in the playoffs and, most importantly, has helped the Steelers win two Super Bowl titles.
Big Ben is as tough as they come and should be commended for being able to succeed despite the absolute beating he has taken. Since coming into the league in 2004, Roethlisberger has been sacked 379 times in 136 career games. That’s nearly three sacks per game! In the last five seasons alone, he has gone down 187 times, the most of any quarterback, despite tying for ninth in starts (64) in that span.
Yes, the Steelers’ offense has been stuck in neutral the last few seasons, but that’s due more to injuries that have devastated an offensive line that wasn’t very deep to begin with and a ground game that has been ineffective at best. And while the upcoming class of quarterbacks for the 2014 NFL Draft is reportedly one of the deepest in the history of the game, there’s no guarantee one of these so-called first-round talents will pan out. Go back through the drafts since 2004 and I am pretty sure you will find many more busts than Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks, which is what the Steelers already have.
So while it looks like Pittsburgh’s reign in the AFC North has come to an end for the time being, that doesn’t mean it’s time to blow it all up and start over from scratch. The defense certainly needs an infusion of young talent, but don’t forget about improving the offensive line and finding a way to run the ball successfully again either. Those last two areas certainly aren’t the quarterback’s fault. So instead of trading Big Ben, how about getting rid of offensive coordinator Todd Haley instead? I’m pretty sure I know which one Steeler Nation wants to keep.
— Mark Ross