It has now been approximately five days since Ben Roethlisberger threw five interceptions in the Steelers’ fifth game of the season, prompting some to believe that it will soon be time for No. 5, rookie quarterback Josh Dobbs, to take the job for good.
Whoa … five days, five interceptions, five games, No. 5 … what does it all mean? I have no idea. What I do know is that it’s time for an all-Roethlisberger edition of the Pittsburgh Sports Power Rankings.
10. Roethlisberger talking
Roethlisberger is undoubtedly one of the greats of his era at throwing an inflated pigskin to other humans. He is also undoubtedly one of the worst athletes of his era at communicating with other humans. To keep this column under 50,000 words, we’ll just focus on his recent utterances. This week we’ll focus on this doozy:
Uhhhh … where to start? So Roethlisberger was asked about Brown throwing the Gatorade cooler on his weekly radio hit on 93.7. If he doesn’t want to be asked questions, perhaps he shouldn’t agree to a weekly radio segment. And no one asked Roethlisberger if he didn’t have it anymore, he brought it up himself after Sunday’s debacle. Pretty much every time Roethlisberger opens his mouth, five interceptions come out. He’d be better off taking the Penguins-social-media-at-the-Trump-White-House approach to communication, and just not do it at all.
9. Big Ben’s physical fitness
Part of the reason there is legitimate concern that Roethlisberger “just doesn’t have it anymore,” is because there has always been a sense that an inevitable late-career decline would hit him quickly. Why? Because unlike, for example, 40-year old Tom Brady and his magic water, the 35-year old Roethlisberger has never been known for his offseason workout program. He is not James Harrison. I mean, look at the guy with his shirt off. That is not a professional athlete’s body. That is not even a men’s rec league athlete’s body. His torso is a sack of old potatoes left out in the sun for three weeks. When the natural athleticism leaves Soft Ben’s body — and, again, Roethlisberger is 35 now — it’s going to be gone quickly and for good.
8. Bearded Ben’s commercials
It’s hard to be surprised by decision making that leads to five interceptions when it comes from the same mind that decided this was a good look to choose for the day of a commercial shoot.
If Roethlisberger was not the star quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers, it’s hard to imagine he could have forged a career as a pitchman on his groggy lumberjack look alone.
7. The idea of a Ben-less future
After 14 years of mostly excellence from Roethlisberger, the idea of the Steelers being dropped into the QB crapshoot with the likes of the Browns and the rest of the NFL is pretty terrifying. And think about this: He has been their quarterback since 2004. Before Twitter, before Facebook, before the city had 17 subscription sports sites. The crush of coverage on whoever replaces him will be unlike anything the city has seen before. Be scared.
6. Super Bowls
The Steelers have six Super Bowl titles. More than any other franchise. And two of them were won with Roethlisberger under center. Just wanted to briefly remind everyone of that. Okay, now feel free to go back to being angry.
5. Roethlisberger’s toughness
Roethlisberger is unquestionably one of the toughest players in the NFL. Remember that game against the Ravens when his nose was smashed all over his face and he kept playing? Or the game against the Cowboys when he appeared to have suffered a broken leg, yet stayed in the game? Or … well, pick any few dozen other times he was smashed, bashed and crushed. But Roethlisberger’s toughness only comes in at No. 5 in the rankings because he won’t just be physically tough and leave it at that. He always insists on telling everyone how tough he is by playing up every injury, no matter how minor or legitimate it is. We know you’re tough, Mr. Ben. It’s just tough hearing about it all the time.
4. Super Bowls
Just a quick reminder that the Steelers had four Super Bowl titles before Roethlisberger arrives, and now they have six. But do feel free to be angry.
3. Roethlisberger’s mobility
Because Ben is so big, and because he is not exactly the most chiseled player in the NFL, watching him still somehow evade would-be sack attempts is one of the great joys of watching the Steelers. His style in the pocket is pretty much the story of the tortoise and the hare. It would just be nice if he had a protective shell on his body.
2. 2015 Denver Broncos
So what does it mean if Roethlisberger truly is washed up? Is the Steelers season lost? Not necessarily — and it’s all thanks to how incredibly awful Peyton Manning was in 2015. In 2015, Manning had a quarterback rating of 67.9, 34th and dead-last in the league. This was a season after he threw for 4,727 yards and 39 touchdowns. Age came for him even quicker than a Papa John’s pizza leaves your digestive system.
Yet with the awful Peyton Manning of 2015, the Broncos still won the Super Bowl because they took the ball out of his hands and relied on the run game and his defense.
The Steelers have maybe the best running back in football and a defense ranked in the Top 10 in the league. They can still be a contender with a Bad Ben if they adjust their approach on the fly. Now, do Todd Haley and Mike Tomlin possess the ability to do so or will they continue to do what doesn’t work because some sort of stubborn, football-y cliche that sounds meaningful when said sternly at a press conference? (Like only rushing Le’Veon Bell 15 times against Jacksonville?) That is a discussion for another time/power rankings.
1. Big Ben spoiling us
If you’re looking for a good way to illustrate how good Roethlisberger has been for the past 14 years, the fact that everyone is panicking while the Steelers are 3-2 and in first place in their division is a pretty great way to do it.