Ben Roethlisberger took a knee to end the season and, most likely, his career at Heinz Field Monday night. Tears in his eyes, he thanked the Pittsburgh faithful for their decades of support. The next time he’s in Heinz Field for a Steelers game, he’ll likely be waving to the crowd from a suite, or on the field pregame wearing a blazer. What will the Steelers look like then?
The Pittsburgh Steelers have some huge choices to make in the wake of Roethlisberger’s impending departure, choices that go far beyond deciding who’s taking snaps eight months from now. They can look east for a blueprint for what to do, and also what not to do, when a multiple Super Bowl-winning quarterback leaves the only team for which he’s ever played. Question is, will the Steelers follow the path of the New England Patriots or the New York Giants?
Pittsburgh’s about to get back on the dating scene after almost 20 years of marriage. That can go very well, recognizing that a little bit of honest self-analysis and patience are necessary, or that can go very poorly, with hasty and unwise choices that set you back years. Again: see the Patriots and the Giants.
The Steelers have needs all over the field, but everything flows outward from the quarterback, and the route that Pittsburgh management opts to take. Where the Giants quickly deemed in-house rookie Daniel Jones the heir apparent to Eli Manning, the Patriots showed a bit more discipline, wading through a year of Cam Newton/Jarrett Stidham/Brian Hoyer before drafting Mac Jones. Two years later, it’s fairly obvious which approach worked better.
Backups Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins are already in Pittsburgh uniforms, but the fact that they haven’t seen much playing time even despite Roethlisberger’s struggles speaks volumes about their long-term futures. Rudolph has only appeared in two games, and Haskins hasn’t taken a single snap all year.
If Pittsburgh opts to go with a veteran at QB, there are tantalizing — well,…