Despite a minor knee operation, Roethlisberger reported to training camp in incredible shape. But for the Steelers to get back to the playoffs, he is going to have to carry the team. He lost a deep threat with Mike Wallace’s departure to Miami. Tight end Heath Miller is coming off a knee reconstruction, and the Steelers’ best running back, Le’Veon Bell, has a foot injury.
I would say that number five overall is a fair spot for Roethlisberger when it comes to his rank among NFL starting quarterbacks. Even tied for fifth with Eli Manning would be correct since both signal-callers have already won two Super Bowls during their already-terrific professional careers. Regardless of how high or how low Ben was placed, I believe that we can all agree that Clayton was dead-on about one thing in his analysis:
Big Ben will need to carry the Steelers during the 2013 season.
I hate to sound like a “Negative Nancy,” but the running back position is nothing short of a injury-riddled and mediocre group. Even when Le’Veon Bell returns to the lineup, he will still be an unknown quantity at this point in his short career. Roethlisberger will also be without Heath Miller for an extended period of time too, and Pittsburgh’s tight end was the offense’s best red zone threat last fall.
Although I am not as concerned as others about the loss of Wallace, the quintet of Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, Markus Wheaton, and Jerricho Cotchery must still find ways to replace the departed pass-catcher in the statistical aggregate (2012: 64 catches, 836 yards, eight touchdowns) this fall. While I believe that the addition of Wheaton is a huge positive, Pittsburgh’s offense will still need to find ways to stretch the field vertically with the group of pass-catchers on their roster.
If the young offensive line can gel around Roethlisberger though, then Pittsburgh’s offense will definitely improve as the season progresses. “Big Ben” has not had a stable offensive line in front of him since arguably 2005, and some protection would do a quarterback as talented as him wonders.
Before Roethlisberger was injured last year, he was in the midst of a career season from a statistical standpoint. With the uncertainty all around him on the offensive side of the ball right now, the Steelers will need their quarterback to have his best season ever so the team can qualify for postseason play. Now more than ever will this team’s success be tied to Roethlisberger, and I for one am intrigued to see what transpires.
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