When the Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger worked out a revised contract that kept him in Pittsburgh for an 18th season, I said that both team and player would regret the move by November.
If injected with truth serum, they’d quite possibly admit that they already regret it.
Through three games, Roethlisberger is struggling. His passer rating of 79.0 puts him at No. 28 among all current starting quarterbacks, ahead of only Tua Tagovailoa (and Jacoby Brissett), Trevor Lawrence, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Justin Fields.
Sunday’s game against the Bengals was Roethlisberger’s statistical low point for the season, a 70.9 passer rating. As NBC’s Rodney Harrison said on Football Night in America, Roethlisberger looks “extremely old.”
He has a pec injury. At one point on Sunday, his right arm bothered him. And there are still 14 regular-season games to go.
That said, there are still 14 regular-season games to go. Things can change, quickly. Linebacker T.J. Watt, who missed Sunday’s game with a groin injury, is a difference-maker.
Still, things get challenging soon. They play the Packers, Broncos, and Seahawks over the next three weeks, before a bye. A 2-4 start looks possible. Based on how they played on Sunday, 1-5 isn’t out of the question.
Looming after Week Seven are two games against the Browns, two against the Ravens, and visits to the Chargers, Chiefs, Bengals, and Vikings.
Never underestimate the abilities of coach Mike Tomlin. He has a knack for making chicken salad. Regardless, he needs to activate the recipe, because the past two weeks have definitely looked like chicken you-know-what.
The biggest reason for hope comes from the fact that the offense remains new, a work in progress. Although it’s a bizarre sort of Frankenstein monster with old players and new players and 80 percent of new offensive linemen and a new coordinator and no obvious identity, more reps will help. If/when some of those reps can lead to success.
Currently, the Steelers rank 25th in total offense — and dead last in rushing offense, with 53.0 yards per game. Without a running game, defenses won’t be kept honest. And Ben will be kept very busy avoiding defensive linemen and blitzing linebackers and defensive backs. At some point, he may reprise the line made famous by Roger Murtaugh.