Sleep On It
They say if you are feeling emotional or indecisive, “sleep on it.”
So I did.
After watching NFL games on Thursday, Sunday, and Monday, I slept on it, and this is on my mind.
No Succession Plan
Let’s get this out of the way. If the Pittsburgh Steelers bench their franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, they are telling the team and their fans, this season is over. They can’t bench their star QB, who at 39 years old is playing exactly how you would imagine a 39-year-old quarterback playing. As the team prepares for the Broncos, their starter is dealing with a pectoral injury and now hip issues according to head coach Mike Tomlin.
Big Ben and the Steelers look to be in trouble.
No Ben almost always means no success for Pittsburgh, which is why you can’t bench him. I’ve had multiple conversations over the years with coordinators and head coaches about Roethlisberger and rarely would I collect information that ever pointed to him being washed up. In fact, most teams would want a player with his knowledge and toughness in the pocket quarterbacking their team, so as quick as we are to point out the problems, he still is a future Hall of Famer. In the past, we’ve seen the Steelers make small runs with their backups, but they always come up short.
On Tuesday, head coach Mike Tomlin was asked if he thinks Roethlisberger is the best QB for the Steelers’ offense and he answered without hesitation. "Absolutely. What he does and what he's done makes me really comfortable in saying that," Tomlin said.
The reality is, without Roethlisberger, what is the plan? Back-up QBs Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins would welcome the opportunity to start, but they probably won’t be enough to turn this season around. After starting the season with a win against the Bills, Pittsburgh has lost three in a row. The Steelers' schedule doesn't give them any relief, either, with the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks up next before the Week 7 bye. This Sunday feels like a game that will determine how the rest of this season will go and its only early October.
Statistically Roethlisberger has completed 64.1 percent of his passes for 1,033 yards, four TDs, and four interceptions. His 78.9 passer rating is on pace for his worst performance since 2006, per ESPN. The offense is, itself, the past four weeks, tied for fourth worst in scoring as it is averaging just 4.9 yards per play. The concerns are growing over the 39-year-old’s play and with a dicey offensive line, it’s probably not going to get any better this season, and what about next year?
The organization is in a really difficult spot. Why is there no plan at the quarterback position? Would they consider the Texans’ Deshaun Watson? Maybe Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers next year? Did they ever consider a real succession plan to Ben?
The Colts did it with Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck. The Chiefs did with Alex Smith and Patrick Mahomes. The Packers did it with Brett Favre and Rodgers. Take the drama out of the team not communicating well with Rodgers, and they planned well, again, by trading up to draft Jordan Love. Any general manager I have spoken to over the years about this usually explains it’s delicate, but great teams have a strategy. This organization has always been smart and tactical. Why was this overlooked? It’s no secret Roethlisberger was getting older. It’s no secret he didn’t spend his career eating and taking care of his body like we all know Tom Brady lives his life. Yes, Roethlisberger is doing more of that now, but it’s too late. You don’t stop smoking after you’re diagnosed with lung cancer. You quit before you damage your lungs with that poison. When quarterbacks get old like we saw with Drew Brees and Peyton Manning, the issues start sticking out when the weather gets colder. It gets to about Week 8 or 9 and the aging stands out. The leaves haven’t even changed colors in Pittsburgh yet and Roethlisberger looks old. The hardest part for the Steelers isn’t the issues on their own team, it’s the rest of the division. The Browns, the Ravens, the Bengals all have the one thing Pittsburgh doesn’t -- young quarterbacks having success.
Dak, Dan, and Diggs.
The three Ds in Dallas have the Cowboys leading the NFC East.
Dak Prescott, Dan Quinn, and Trevon Diggs. Thanks to a change at the defensive coordinator position, Quinn has been revamping this unit and improvements are undeniable. His second-year star corner Trevon Diggs is creating turnovers every single game. Diggs has as many touchdowns this season as his brother, Bills’ receiver Stefon Diggs (one), and five interceptions in four games. Owner Jerry Jones, blown away by his play, believes Diggs is a receiver disguised as a defensive back, and that actually makes sense. Back to Quinn, who was brought in to find a way to fix 2020’s defensive issues. The coordinator has the group bought in and with the help of the talent on this roster, it’s all gelling. The team drafted Penn State’s defensive star Micah Parsons, along with Kelvin Joseph, Osa Odighizuwa and Jabril Cox. In the offseason they signed solid veterans Malik Hooker, Damontae Kazee, Jayron Kearse, Keanu Neal, and Brent Urban. Their identity is forming.
As for Prescott, who somehow is playing like an MVP coming off his ankle injury, he has 10 touchdowns on the season. This past Sunday against Carolina, he surpassed 1,000 yards passing and has a QB rating of 116.9
If these 3 Ds continue to play and coach with this success, the Cowboys could be playing in January. It’s early, but imagine if the Bills and Cowboys play in the Super Bowl and we get to see the Diggs brothers face each other? We’ve had the Mannings, Watts, McCourtys, Barbers, Kelces, and Sharpes in the NFL, but never playing in a Super Bowl, facing one another. It’s a good thing the Super Bowl is in Hollywood because here’s the perfect script!