The point of many a criticism for the Pittsburgh Steelers lately has been that they are getting old. Well they can add another notch to the wall as Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger turns 32 Sunday. He’s by far not the eldest of the team, and I’m thanking my lucky stars that he’s at least not as ancient as Brett Favre was at the end of his career…. the second time around. So, as long as the Steelers can extend that contract we have many more years ahead of us with Ben at the helm of the offense on the field. So what do you get for a guy who has just about everything for his birthday?
A New Contract
Speaking of keeping Roethlisberger around…. The Steelers can give Ben a great birthday present by extending his contract sometime during this offseason. Big Ben has two years left in his contract, and is slated to make the last $44 million of his $100 million deal. The team has stressed that re-signing Ben is a big priority, yet they haven’t put ink to paper quite yet. My guess is that they are waiting for a few things to play out, so they know how much money they have to play with to restructure his 2015 numbers and extend him through 2020 when he will be 38. The question has always been how much is Roethlisberger really worth as a quarterback in this league and, more importantly, to this team. With guys like Joe “Not Quite Elite” Flacco and Tony “Never Won A SB” Romo getting huge deals, Big Ben will have a big case for a monster of a contract. He’s rarely put on that top five list of current QB’s in the league, but Steeler Nation knows better. As long as Ben’s on the field, the Steelers have a good chance of winning any and every football game. He’s critical to how this team performs – if he has a good solid game, chances are they win, if he has a less than good game by giving up some picks or fumbling the ball, the chances of winning decrease exponentially (hello 0-4).
The Steelers have been in salary cap hell for the last few seasons, so it is a bit of a tough pill to swallow in just throwing money at a quarterback when there are so many problems to fix on this team that will take some years to really address. But he’s worth it. The Steelers know that, and so does Ben. So forget the goofy ‘you’re older than dirt’ Maxine birthday card from Hallmark and get him a 100 page contract worth at least $115 million.
A Tall Receiver
The team can continue their generosity by getting something that Ben has always wanted since becoming the Steelers starting quarterback – a tall and fast wide receiver. The Steelers have always had one or the other, but hardly ever a combination of the two. Plaxico Burress? Really tall but slow. Santonio Holmes? Fast but short. Hines Ward? Good skill set but gritty as hell. Mike Wallace? Fast but short and crappy hands. Get my drift? The draft this year has a few taller (above 6’1″) and fast (4.6 or less 40 dash) receivers. With the 15th overall pick this year, the Steelers can be aggressive by either trading up or sitting tight and getting the receiver they need as the final piece of the puzzle for this receiving core. If the front office can nab a receiver that can nab 15 or more TD’s in a season, it will be the gift that keeps on giving.
A Bit More Respect
I’m not just talking pundits here. I’m talking from his own kin of Steeler Nation. I was simply amazed during the Steelers craptacular 2-6 start to the first half of the season how much Big Ben was shouldering the blame from Steeler Nation. Outright thrown under the bus. Even as the team began to turn things around and made a surprising run at the final playoff spot, fans were quick to jump on his back the moment he threw a pick or ‘held onto the ball too long’ while desperately trying to dig this team from the depths of oblivion. People were always complaining through Twitter, Facebook, full page ads in the PPG, how much it was Ben’s fault that the team was awful. I’m surprised that he wasn’t blamed for Ryan Succop’s field goal miss that buried the Steelers playoff hopes.
A little more respect would go a long way as a nice gift for #7. Should he be absolved of all criticism? Absolutely not. No one ever is or should be. But, the city of Pittsburgh and Steeler Nation around the globe have always been hard on their quarterbacks. Maybe in 2014 fans can find it in their heart to give Big Ben a break or two and a little more understanding considering his working conditions half the time – a shoddy offensive line, and OC that is as stubborn as a mule, and a head coach that can’t stand running the no huddle even though that’s the best way Ben runs the offense. For God’s sake people, you don’t know how good we have it. We could be stuck with Phillip Rivers, Eli Manning, or worse still Andy Dalton. There are at least 25 or more starting QB’s in this league not worthy or wearing Black & Gold. Count those blessings and give the gift of love to our #7.
So put on that smile and have a little more faith that Roethlisberger will present us with some gifts. Gifts in the form of Lombardi Trophies #7, #8, and maybe even #9.