The Pittsburgh Steelers’ Wild Card loss to the Cleveland Browns on Sunday may have also signaled the end of an era.
It is entirely possible that Ben Roethlisberger may have played his last game as a Steeler and possibly in the NFL.
The 38-year-old quarterback has one more year on his contract but there are certainly questions about whether or not the two-time Super Bowl champion QB will retire or if the Steelers should move on from him – either in a trade, or possibly cutting him.
While both Roethlisberger and the Steelers will need time to reflect, it is pretty clear that neither Mason Rudolph nor Devlin Hodges are long-term solutions. There are a few external possibilities the Steelers could turn to as potential replacements. Here are some of those options:
The New York Jets are at a crossroads with Sam Darnold. The 23-year-old quarterback has yet to prove he is the franchise quarterback of the future and the team holds the No. 2 overall pick in the draft, where Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields will be available.
The Steelers could be an intriguing trade option for the Jets – and a trade for Darnold also does not have to mean he starts in 2021, either. Darnold is still young and on the final year of his rookie contract, so if Roethlisberger returns, he could be the heir apparent, spending a season learning the system until he is ready to take the reins from Roethlisberger. He may cost a second or third-round pick for the Steelers, but Darnold is young enough where all he may need is a better environment and he could be a franchise quarterback.
The Carson Wentz-Doug Pederson relationship appears to be broken beyond repair and at least one of the two probably will not be back next season. With the promise Jalen Hurts showed, it’s fathomable to think that Wentz could be traded – and perhaps he just moves to the other side of the state.
Wentz, like Darnold, would be a reclamation project for the Steelers. The Steelers would also be a much better place for Wentz, who would have a significant improvement in weapons around him. Wentz also has a lot of similarities to Roethlisberger from measurables to style of play.
The hurdle here is the cap, though. In fact, the Eagles would have to pay $33.8 million in dead money if they traded Wentz anywhere, so they may be financially motivated to keep him. Although, if things are truly as bad between him and the team, they may not have a choice.
There are plenty of rumors that the Detroit Lions could part ways with Matthew Stafford in an attempt to rebuild and the Steelers could be an ideal fit for the 32-year-old quarterback. Stafford has been hamstrung by poor coaching or bad teams in Detroit, but the Steelers are ready to win now with a stingy defense and explosive offense.
Stafford’s contract is much more amenable for a trade and the Steelers would be able to plug him in immediately as the starter, whereas Wentz and Darnold would be more of a project. It seems like an easy win-win for both sides – if they could make it work.
Another option the Steelers have is to tap into the NFL Draft for Roethlisberger’s replacement. Pittsburgh is in no position for the top quarterbacks Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields, but someone like Alabama’s Mac Jones – a Heisman Trophy finalist – could be available in the second or third round.
Jones would be another good option if they move forward with Roethlisberger in 2021 so he can spend a season under Roethlisberger and become acclimated to the NFL, especially for a quarterback who is not a first-round talent.
Ok, folks, we’ll toss you a bone. The minute it was reported Deshaun Watson is unhappy in Houston and broached the idea of being traded, he was already being photoshopped in a Steelers uniform. So, why not dream a little? Let’s be clear, it is an absolute longshot for Watson to be traded to Pittsburgh considering cap implications and what it will take to acquire the 25-year-old QB. The Steelers would need to mortgage their future for Watson and it would just be too much when there are other options.
Sure, the thought of Watson donning the black and yellow is appealing. He would unquestionably make the team a Super Bowl contender for next season and he is young enough where he would remain the franchise quarterback for years to come. The odds of Watson to the Steelers are slim to none, though. But hey, crazier stuff has happened, right?