Madden: Steelers wasting Big Ben
Posted: Sunday, August 18, 2013 11:45 pm
By Mark Madden Times Sports Correspondent
Once upon a time, Ben Roethlisberger was a top five NFL quarterback.
He could be again, given chance.
That chance does not appear imminent.
The NFL has gone vertical. Quick strike, get the ball back, score again. Despite finishing a lowly 21st in the league in offense last season, the Steelers have decided to keep going against that grain. Instead of utilizing their two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback to a more prominent degree, the Steelers have instituted a new run-blocking scheme and will ask a rookie back to exploit it.
Last year, the Steelers finished second in the NFL when it comes to average time of possession. They finished 8-8 when it comes to winning games, proving that controlling the ball no longer means much. Using it to score does.
Just so the two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback doesn’t get any crazy ideas, they let receiver Mike Wallace walk. Run, rather. The speedy Wallace is one of football’s few legit deep threats. Now the Steelers don’t have one.
Max Starks was the left tackle last season. He allowed just three sacks and took just three penalties. But the Steelers let him walk, too. Didn’t figure he’d be nimble enough to run-block for Franco and Rocky. Uh, I mean, for Le’Veon Bell. The remaining tackles keep switching from side to side. Not a good sign.
The game plan is designed to protect the two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback. Quick release. Dink and dunk, I’ve heard it called. Except the two-time Super Bowl winning-quarterback got hurt anyway. Missed three games.
The two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback was having a big year before he got hurt. Statistically, anyway. Making plays? Inventing solutions? The stuff the two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback used to do? You don’t need that crap when you got a commitment to Steelers tradition and the genius of Todd Haley. Roethlisberger's genius is fodder for criticism: He holds onto the ball too long.
The Steelers missed the playoffs. As they contemplate a way back, expanding the duties of the two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback isn’t an option.
Roethlisberger’s job is to bail out the Steelers when they need it. He isn’t asked to do much, except when he’s asked to do too much. If the Steelers trail in the second half, he’s called upon to perform a miracle. To launch a comeback.
If he fails, he’s that much easier to blame.
Roethlisberger’s last contract got him $102 million. Right now, he’s not worth that kind of money. That’s not his fault. He’s not allowed to be.
Roethlisberger is the most underutilized superstar in professional sports.
Anybody know why?
Outdated tradition posing as unique style is part of it. The Steelers are “That ‘70s Show.” They stick as close as possible to the original blueprint.
But that original blueprint included Terry Bradshaw. Bradshaw’s arm took over when the defense faltered in the late ‘70s. The Steelers had no choice.
Do they have a choice now?
Maybe the Steelers have never really forgiven Roethlisberger for Lake Tahoe and Milledgeville. Maybe they don’t want a player to be bigger than the team. The logo. The Rooney family. If those reasons sound ridiculous, come up with a good one. Why do the Steelers refuse to maximize Roethlisberger?
Roethlisberger gets the most money. He’s got the most talent. He plays the most important position. But he isn’t used in a corresponding manner.
After a rocky start, Roethlisberger says he has a good relationship with Haley. That’s too bad. For the sake of the Steelers, Roethlisberger needs to lose his cool. He needs to blow up and make it clear that this way is not the right way.
Most NFL experts feel the Steelers are on the precipice of a bad season. We should be talking about what Roethlisberger might be able to do to save them.
Instead, we’re talking about outside zone blocking.