We have heard it all this off-season.  The extremes of what people expect from Ben Roethlisberger in 2021 could not be more polarized.  On one end of the spectrum we have Mike Tannanenbaum proclaiming that Roethlisberger will be replaced as quarterback before the season ends….

Just a few days later, Ryan Burr chimed in claiming Ben Roethlisberger is in the best shape of his life.  He also quoted “sources” as saying Big Ben should be an MVP candidate in 2021. 

So what can we realistically expect from Ben Roethlisberger in 2021?  The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle of these two extremes.  Let’s examine each scenario in more detail:

Bad Ben:

There is no denying Ben Roethlisberger is declining.  Despite posting fairly good numbers in 2020, the second half of the year was a disaster for the offense.  Roethlisberger’s reluctance to hold the ball long enough to complete deeper passes really hurt the offense.  It led to safeties creeping in closer to the line of scrimmage, which was one of the factors that caused the struggles in the running game.

Thirty nine year old quarterbacks generally do not improve season after season.  Add to this the fact that the Steelers offensive line is going to most likely be substantially worse, and it doesn’t bode well for a big year for Ben Roethlisberger.  Will the Steelers offensive line be their undoing in 2021?  The days of Ben shedding would be tacklers with ease are long gone.  He is much more reliant on his pass protection than ever before.

Finally, there is the unknown of having a new offensive coordinator for Roethlisberger to mesh with.  Granted, Matt Canada is not completely an unknown having spent all of last season with the team.  It will still undoubtedly be a learning curve for the Steelers quarterback getting used to a new offense fo the first time in years.

Good Ben:

If we are to believe the reports on how good of a shape Roethlisberger is in, that can be a very good sign for the upcoming season.  Not that he has ever come into a season in bad shape.  Reports of that have been greatly exaggerated over the years.  If he indeed has taken his fitness to another level, that is a good indicator that Roethlisberger is taking his last season very seriously.

This upcoming season may have the best set of offensive weapons the team has had in some time.  The Steelers added firsts round running back Najee Harris, and second round tight end Pat Freiermuth to an already talented group of skill players.  If the offense struggles in 2021, it will not be from a lack of firepower on that side of the ball.

We used Matt Canada as a possible downside to Ben’s upcoming season.  This can also be a reason to be optimistic as well however.  Canada will bring fresh new ideas to this offense for the first time in years.  He will modernize an offense which had become far too predictable under Randy Fichtner.  This should be a huge factor in improving the offense so long as Roethlisberger can adapt quickly to the new schemes.

The Verdict:

We have had our doubts that Ben Roethlisberger can ever bring this franchise another Super Bowl for some time at Steelers Sanctuary.  In our view, the end of the “Killer B’s” era was the last realistic chance for this team to win a championship with Big Ben under center.

There are just too many factors working against him going into 2021.  When you consider age, potential injuries, a poor offensive line, and a weakened defense, next season promises to be a struggle.  Ben Roethlisberger simply is no longer good enough to overcome all these factors.

Having said that, there is very little chance that Ben Roethlisberger is replaced mid-season as Tannenbaum suggests.  That is a ludicrous statement that was clearly made in search of clicks.  On the other hand, the suggestion that he will be an MVP candidate are equally unlikely.  As is the case most often, the truth is somewhere in the middle.  Unfortunately an average season form Ben Roethlisberger in 2021 is what we can expect, and that won’t be good enough to take this team where it wants to go.