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What You Need to Know:
-Big Ben made only 2 appearances during the 2019 season. He underwent right elbow surgery in September of ’19.
-Roethlisberger revealed last August that prior to surgery, he’d been playing through elbow pain for “probably 13, 14 years.” He was healthy for Week 1 of 2020.
-Under former OC Randy Fichtner, Pittsburgh ranked 7th in total plays last year; 2nd in pass rate.
-Pittsburgh really abandoned the run early in the season. From Week 7-Week 16, Big Ben led the league in pass attempts by 20. (He was rested for Week 17.)
-As a result, Roethlisberger ranked 3rd among QBs in attempts (608). He simply wasn’t efficient with an ugly 6.3 YPA mark.
-Ben finished as a QB1 only 4 times. 3 of them surfaced over the final 8 games.
-His pass catchers combined for a poor drop rate of nearly 9%. Still, Ben ranked a subpar 25th among 44 QBs with 100+ dropbacks in adjusted completion rate (75.5%).
-A declining deep ball made Ben more reliant on short passes. His 7.4-yard average depth of target ranked near the bottom of the league.
-Big Ben’s contract was restructured over the winter. He’ll return for his 18th season.
-Ben’s top weaponry (Diontae Johnson, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chase Claypool, Eric Ebron) also return. Pittsburgh upgraded their TE depth with Round 2 pick Pat Freiermuth.
-After investing a Round 1 pick in hulking ‘Bama RB Najee Harris, look for Pittsburgh’s offense to show more balance.
-Losing OL Alejandro Villanueva, Maurkice Pouncey and Matt Feiler leaves this unit thin and unproven along the line. It’s a concern for the immobile Roethlisberger.
-The Steelers promoted Matt Canada — the team’s 2020 QB coach — to OC. Primarily an offensive coach in stops with Maryland, LSU and others, 2020 marked Canada’s first pro experience. He brings 14 years of experience as a college OC.
-The offense won’t be overhauled in what might be Roethlisberger’s last season. But Canada is expected to incorporate more pre-snap motion/play-action passing. Ben ran play-action on a league-low 9.6% of his dropbacks in 2020.
-Roethlisberger appeared in Pittsburgh’s voluntary May OTAs. Per beat writer Mark Kaboly, he was “slinging the ball all over the field and looking strong at doing it (even the deep pass). He hardly resembled a Tier 6 quarterback who has been in a free fall for years.” There’s at least no obvious health issue with Big Ben entering the summer.
Draft Sharks Bottom Line
You have to love Roethlisberger’s supporting cast. Diontae Johnson, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chase Claypool and Eric Ebron form one of the league’s top pass catching units.
We simply don’t have a ton of faith in Big Ben — now 39 — showing pre-2019 form. And as good as the pass catchers are, the O-line has the potential to really limit this offense.
The bull case for Ben is that he’s cheap, currently coming off the board at QB26 in FFPC best balls.