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Pittsburgh Steelers won’t bench Ben Roethlisberger but could send him to IR

Andrew Buller-Russ

The Pittsburgh Steelers have had Ben Roethlisberger as their quarterback for 18 seasons, 235 starts, 157 wins, and most importantly, two Super Bowl rings. However, the 39-year-old signal-caller’s playing days on the gridiron could soon be coming to a stop.

Big Ben’s touchdown rate (2.4%) is at a career-low, his yards per attempt currently sits at 6.1 yards per throw after averaging 7.7 throughout his career.

Not only is his arm appearing to get weaker by the season, Roethlisberger has already taken ten sacks across four starts after only taking 13 across 15 starts in 2020. Both his arm and his legs appear to be failing him and the Steelers no longer have an effective running game to fall back on when the air attack isn’t firing on all cylinders.

Of course, the crapshoot offensive line put together in front of him hasn’t helped matters. Even their talented first-round rookie running back Najee Harris has struggled to find the holes, averaging 3.4 yards per carry.

So what are the options for the 1-3 Steelers, a team that hasn’t had a losing season since 2003?

Steelers could place Roethlisberger on IR instead of on the bench

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Seattle Seahawks
Nov 29, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) and Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Landry Jones (3) sit on the bench between plays against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

As Jeremy Fowler recently pointed out, the Steelers are unlikely to bench a local legend that has brought so much glory to the franchise over the past 18 years. However, with Big Ben always battling injuries such as his current hip injury, plus whatever else we don’t know about, could the Steelers simply opt to place their legendary quarterback in injured reserve instead?

That’s exactly the scenario Mike Florio points out and it makes some sense on the surface. It would be a great way to save face with the local fanbase.

It reminds me of the end of the Eli Manning era in New York. Benching Manning, a fellow two-time Super Bowl-winning QB was a bad look. Especially when Daniel Jones wasn’t any better as a rookie. However, if there had been an injury to hide behind causing the Hall-of-Fame quarterback to go on injured reserve instead, there wouldn’t be nearly as much uproar.

Related: 2022 NFL Power Rankings – Outlook for all 32 teams entering summer

If Steelers fall to 1-4, Mike Tomlin needs to bench Big Ben

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Philadelphia Eagles
Aug 12, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph (2) on the sidelines against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Approaching a future Hall-of-Fame quarterback about benching him may be a tough conversation to have. But if the Steelers fall to 1-4, or are in danger of doing so against the Denver Broncos on Sunday, it’s time to see what Mason Rudolph can do.

The issue is, Rudolph hasn’t been very good either in his limited action. For example, his career yards per attempt (5.9) is lower than Roethlisberger’s this season (6.1). But that’s not on Tomlin, that’s on the longtime Steelers’ general manager Kevin Colbert for failing to have a better situation behind an aging Big Ben.

There’s also the 15th overall pick from the 2019 NFL Draft, Dwayne Haskins. The last time fans saw him in regular-season action was with Washington in 2020, where Haskins wasn’t playing winning football either.

However, after a year in Pittsburgh, it’s possible Haskins has taken strides since falling out of favor under Ron Rivera in Washington. If the Steelers find themselves at 1-4, what do they have to lose by trying a different quarterback?