Another Sunday, another embarrassing offensive performance by Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers. We are just three weeks into the new season, yet Pittsburgh’s Week 1 win against the Buffalo Bills seems like a long time ago. Even then, Roethlisberger failed to impress in that victory, completing just 18-of-32 passes for 188 yards.
Pittsburgh has dropped back-to-back games since then and they largely have their anemic offense to thank for it. In two straight losses, including Sunday’s embarrassing home debacle to the Cincinnati Bengals, the Steelers have totaled just 336.5 yards of offense per game while scoring a combined 27 points.
Pittsburgh’s offense is in complete shambles right now, and Roethlisberger is a big reason why. TDN’s own Carter Donnick took a deep dive into why and how Roethlisberger is holding this Pittsburgh offense back on Monday morning.
I’m not sure how much more Steelers fans can take from this iteration of Roethlisberger and whatever offensive coordinator Matt Canada is trying to accomplish on offense. Canada’s offense has been big on eye-candy and short on execution while failing to mesh with whatever it is Roethlisberger still does well at this point. That begs the question, would the Steelers dare replace Roethlisberger with backup quarterback Mason Rudolph in-season? It appears very possible.
Let's make one thing clear. Rudolph isn't a very good professional quarterback. In 15 career games, Rudolph has thrown for 2,089 yards while averaging a pedestrian 6.4 yards per attempt. He owns a 15:10 touchdown to interception ratio and has completed just 61.6% percent of his passes. At the age of 26, it's unlikely that Rudolph develops into more than what he currently is: a replacement-level quarterback.
Why would the Steelers bother inserting Rudolph into the lineup then, you ask? Simple. Roethlisberger isn't even proving capable of playing at that level. At the tender age of 39, Roethlisberger is performing like a bottom-five quarterback. It’s tough to see for those of us who watched him at the height of his career.
In the interest of fairness, there are other issues at play here. The Steelers can't seem to block anyone as their offensive line continues to struggle in both pass protection and run blocking. A young and relatively inexperienced starting five has disappointed thus far as Pittsburgh continues to search for the right combination up front. Their first-round running back has little to no room to operate on the ground, and the Steelers have minimized themselves to utilizing him in the passing game. Najee Harris saw an astounding 19 targets in Sunday's loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, as Pittsburgh's offense further reduced itself to the check-down passing game. It was yet another embarrassing moment in what could be a season filled with dread and despair.
Pittsburgh’s offense needs to fix several issues outside of the quarterback position. This is going to get worse before it gets better, but Roethlisberger’s depleted arm is making matters unbearable. A few more weeks of the same could force the Steelers to bench their two-time Super Bowl winner. Don’t be surprised if we see Rudolph under center sooner rather than later.
After all, desperate times call for desperate measures.
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