Ben Roethlisberger wants out of Pittsburgh? That’s essentially what Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reported last weekend. After the Steelers trashed the Bills, 23-10, the 2-time Super Bowl champ responded:
“I’d retire before I’d accept a trade. I mean, it would have to be something really, really unbelievable for me to even consider it. I have talked to my wife about that. I don’t want to be anywhere else. This is where we want to be.”
Then, his agent responded via twitter: “Ian Rapoport’s apparent sources seem to be guessing what Ben feels about the Steelers and being traded. This is completely wrong and inaccurate. Ben has always said he wants to play his entire career for the Steelers, and his roots are set firmly in Pittsburgh he has a lot left in the tank & is 100% committed to winning more championships with the Steelers.”
Then, Roethlisberger apologized the team’s owners (?) for the rumor.
[Aside: Who apologizes for a rumor? Does that seem odd to anyone else? If I were a more cynical man, I might say the QB was overcompensating, probably for a reason.]
Let’s humor Big Ben and Rapoport and the Steelers – who haven’t won an NFL playoff game since January 23, 2010 – and take it a step further: Pittsburgh is in shambles. It isn’t one player away from being a playoff team. Or two. They’re more than a draft and free agency away from competing in the fiercely competitive AFC. The window is closed, unfortunately. Three Super Bowl appearances between 2005-2010 was terrific. It’s over.
The Steelers’ overall decline has been incredibly rapid.
The defense has gotten old. Quickly. After six straight years finishing in the top five in yards per game (four of those years they were tops), the Steelers have fallen to 11th this season.
2004: 1st, 2005: 4th, 2006: 9th, 2007: 1st, 2008 1st, 2009: 5th, 2010: 2nd, 2011: 1st, 2012: 1st, 2013: 11th.
And it only figures to get worse: 34-year-old safety Ryan Clark is a free agent after this season. So is 35-year old defensive end Brett Keisel. In 2015, two more defensive starters over the age of 30 are free agents: Safety Troy Polamalu and cornerback Ike Taylor. Could all of them be gone? Certainly.
We’ve already chronicled how badly they’ve missed on draft picks, and how they’re waiting for the investment in the offensive line to pay off. Should Ben Roethlisberger wait around to find out?
See, there’s this team in Arizona, the Cardinals, which is surprisingly strong. The defense has been exceptional – especially at home – and they have a strong receiving core led by one of the best in the game, Larry Fitzgerald. Rookie running back Andre Ellington looks like a 6th round steal. What don’t they have? What’s keeping them from being a playoff team, or more?
A quarterback. Carson Palmer was signed to be a stopgap. He’s an immobile QB with a penchant for interceptions (15) and fumbles (4). He’s the only one holding back the Cardinals right now.
Arizona could draft a QB in the first round next year, and hope he’s a quick study, and vaults the team into the playoffs.
Or, they could make a run at Roethlisberger, who is one of the highest paid players in the NFL.
The Steelers need players. The Cardinals need a QB. What if Arizona gave away a 1st round pick in 2014, and a 3rd round pick in 2015? The problem Arizona runs into is that the Cardinals already have the 10th highest-paid player in the NFL in Larry Fitzgerald, and they’d need to dump some serious money to stay under the cap.
But that’s what GMs are for, right?
As aggressively as the Roethlisberger camp has denied any interest in leaving, doesn’t it make sense that a proud franchise with major holes would dangle its only piece of trade bait in hopes of a quick turnaround? Roethlisberger is 31. Pittsburgh would be silly not to at least entertain the idea of trading him away.
Where is #Steelers GM Kevin Colbert tonight? Scouting Clemson-Georgia Tech, where Tajh Boyd is starring. He’s from Hampton, Va. like Tomlin
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) November 15, 2013
You don’t say?
Oh, maybe he was just scouting Vic Beasley, Clemson’s defensive end.
Related: Pittsburgh Steelers at 0-4: Getting Old and Waiting for the Offensive Line Investment to Pay Off
Related: Tajh Boyd is Staying at Clemson for His Senior Season, Tigers Potentially Loaded for BCS Run