With the Steelers and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger finally working out a revised deal that will pay $14 million in what by all appearances will be the player’s last year in Pittsburgh, the question becomes what’s next at the position?
The Steelers went 20 years between franchise quarterbacks, from the retirement of Terry Bradshaw after 1983 to the arrival of Roethlisberger in 2004. With six potential first-round quarterbacks in 2021 and the Steelers drafting 24th, will they take Roethlisberger’s successor this year?
It depends on various factors, starting with what the Steelers think of the incoming signal-callers. Then there’s the fact that, for as good as Pittsburgh has been when it comes to evaluating receivers in the draft, the team hasn’t done well when it comes to drafting backup quarterbacks, from Omar Jacobs (2006) to Dennis Dixon (2008) to Landry Jones (2013) to Josh Dobbs (2017) to Mason Rudolph (2018).
If there’s a guy the Steelers decide they love, however, don’t rule out a trade up to get him. They did that with players like Hall of Fame safety Troy Polamalu in 2003, Super Bowl XLIII Santonio Holmes in 2006, and linebacker Devin Bush in 2019.
Whatever they do, the Steelers can’t wait 20 years between franchise quarterbacks. If, as it appears, 2021 will be Roethlisberger’s last year, the Steelers need to start looking for their next quarterback immediately — even if Ben bristles at the idea that the first-round pick used in his final NFL season did nothing to help him walk off into the sunset as a champion.
Indeed, the Steelers could have had Dan Marino in 1983, but they decided to defer to Bradshaw. And Bradshaw ultimately played only one more game for the Steelers.