Mark Madden: Steelers season figures to end poorly for Ben Roethlisberger


Before the season, I wondered whether the Steelers would regret bringing back Ben Roethlisberger and whether Roethlisberger would regret returning.

That time may have arrived.

Roethlisberger’s stats are rotten. For every good pass, he makes two that are bad. Roethlisberger’s throws have zip and accuracy only sporadically. He’s pushing the ball. He’s no longer a winning quarterback.

But the Steelers betrayed Roethlisberger by surrounding him with inferiority.

The offensive line has little pedigree and may be the NFL’s worst. There isn’t a true No. 1 receiver. Drops are plentiful: They hit double digits in Sunday’s home loss to Cincinnati. Offensive coordinator Matt Canada is in his first year holding that job at the NFL level. Canada got the position because he was already on payroll. Roethlisberger is really in charge, anyway.

Roethlisberger is getting the snot knocked out of him. Cincinnati sacked him four times and registered seven QB hits. He got hit 10 times the week prior vs. Las Vegas.

The Steelers are 1-2. Their next game is at Green Bay. Their schedule keeps getting harder.

Roethlisberger won’t get better.

The offensive line won’t get better.

The Steelers won’t get better. Their season is over. But the death rattle has many weeks left.

Cincinnati didn’t upset the Steelers. The Bengals flicked the Steelers aside like a gnat. The Bengals were worthy winners. The Steelers mostly bumbled on both sides of the ball.

Preseason optimism was misguided. Mistakes were made.

Promoting Canada from QBs coach was one of them. A proven NFL-level coordinator was required, and he needed to actually be the boss, not a bobo.

Like Canada, offensive line coach Adrian Klemm also got his job because the Steelers already employed him. This is Klemm’s first year as a head position coach in the NFL. He’s exactly the wrong guy to guide a mostly green group that includes two rookies and a second-year player. This is when Mike Munchak is needed. Not to coach Maurkice Pouncey and David DeCastro.

The Steelers made hires on the cheap: Hardly the mark of a top organization. But you know what they say about the third generation of a family business.

The Steelers took luxury players in the draft’s first two rounds.

Running back Najee Harris has been a bright light in terms of effort and potential if not raw numbers. (But he did have 14 catches yesterday. Four drops, too.) There was little point getting Harris to run behind an awful offensive line.

Tight end Pat Freiermuth reminds fans of Heath Miller. He reminds me of Eric Ebron. The last thing the Steelers needed was another tight end that can’t block. (Freiermuth’s hands are better than Ebron’s. Whose aren’t?)

The top offensive linemen were gone by the time the Steelers took Harris 24th overall. So trade up. Or sign a decent offensive lineman out of free agency instead of giving Juju Smith-Schuster an $8 million pity deal to be the No. 3 receiver, a job James Washington could do.

But the Steelers thought their offensive line would be fine. They think Chuks Okorafor is good or that Zach Banner will someday play two straight games without being hurt.

But, like I said, mistakes were made. The Steelers have a ton of bad players.

The defense is supposed to be elite.

But an “elite defense” doesn’t allow Cincinnati to go 75 yards in three plays consuming 27 seconds to take a 14-7 lead with 37 seconds left in the first half immediately after the Steelers tied the score at 7-7.

T.J. Watt being injured is a handy excuse. But an “elite defense” doesn’t depend on one guy. (The Steelers had zero sacks vs. Cincinnati. That’s hardly elite.)

The Steelers’ problems are great, and they are many. They just lost two straight home games to teams they were favored to beat. (Host Green Bay is favored by 6½ next week. Yikes.)

This won’t end well.

It especially figures to end poorly for Roethlisberger.

There’s no graceful way out of this for the Steelers and Roethlisberger. Not unless he gets hurt or unless he gets “hurt.”

But there’s no benching one of your franchise’s two or three most important players ever, especially when Mason Rudolph won’t improve things enough.

Categories: Mark Madden Columns | Sports | Steelers/NFL