Out with the old (Ben Roethlisberger) and in with the new?
Early on in 2022, “Big Ben” looks like he’s nearing the end of his career, losing the battle to Father Time in his likely last season with the Steelers. That begs the question: Who’s next?
The Steelers don’t exactly have a succession plan in place for Roethlisberger entering the 2022 season, opting to pass on quarterbacks in the 2021 NFL Draft and run it back with Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph and the very intriguing Dwayne Haskins.
While the passer of the future — or present — may not be on the Steelers’ roster, they’ll have plenty of options to secure a guy entering 2022.
Here’s how those options breaks down:
Steelers quarterback options in 2022
Ben Roethlisberger, again?
Could the Steelers run it back again with “Big Ben?”
Entering 2022, the contract conundrum between Steelers brass and Roethlisberger resulted in the veteran freeing up some money so the Steelers had cap room to wiggle around in. Roethlisberger’s contract, though, is void following the 2021 season, meaning the team could restructure or figure out a one-year deal to bring him back. Likelihood here, though, remains low.
Unless Roethlisberger rediscovers his youthful exuberance and can reclaim his title of elite deep-thrower, then there’s more than a good chance the 2021 is his last year in Pittsburgh — and potentially his last as a quarterback in the NFL.
Dwayne Haskins, Part 2
The Steelers taking a flier on the former first-round pick may have been a savvy, smart move for the future of the franchise, if he can keep his nose clean for the next year.
Haskins, who turns 25 next May, could be more than a viable option as a starter moving forward. He opened some eyes with his play during the preseason — mind you, it’s preseason — and reminded people why he was a top selection in the 2019 NFL Draft.
The split between Washington and Haskins was fairly tense and had less to do with his overall talent than it did his maturity. Haskins’ release came after the QB was spotted in a club, eschewing coronavirus protocols to have a good time with his girlfriend and some strippers. Following that, he was given one more opportunity to start, a Week 16 matchup vs. the Panthers, which Haskins blew. He was released afterwards.
If Haskins’ head is screwed on straight and his release was a wake-up call like Rivera expected it might be, then maybe the Steelers will check out contract options heading into 2022 and beyond to keep him around and see what juice he has as a starter.
Seek a trade?
If the front office is going to put out Pittsburgh feelers for a QB, there could be a pair of intriguing QBs on the market this coming offseason:
- If the 2021 season is, in fact, the last season of the Aaron Rodgers marriage with the Packers, then the Steelers could provide a soft landing spot for Rodgers. They’ll have work cut out for them to rebuild the offensive line and make sure there’s enough offensive weaponry for Rodgers to thrive with as he enters the twilight of his career.
- Could the Steelers be staring at their future — albeit, indirectly — across the way on Sunday night? After an offseason that was filled with drama and tension, Russell Wilson and the Seahawks may look to part ways this offseason. Wilson is still under contract for 2022, but an offseason of drama led to questions as to whether or not he’s truly happy in the Seahawks anymore. Wilson, currently recovering from a finger injury, had a list of teams he’d welcome a trade to, including the Bears, Raiders, Cowboys and Saints.
In either case, it’s difficult to see the Steelers, traditionally very safe and protective of their first-round draft picks, parting with major draft capital to land either guy. But if they’re feeling the pressure to produce for their fans, then either guy could be a potential option.
Rodgers was exceptionally complimentary of Tomlin prior to their matchup in Week 4, and the pair were caught having a moment during the game.
Adding fuel to the fire, Fox Sports believes that Rodgers could be an option to trade in his gold and green for black and yellow in 2022:
“Ben Roethlisberger — (when) it’s time for him to move on — Mike Tomlin has told me he doesn’t want to start over with a rookie,” Glazer said. “The Steelers are going to want to go with somebody who is a veteran. The Pittsburgh Steelers, they are going to need a veteran quarterback, obviously, that makes sense.”
2022 NFL Draft
The 2022 NFL Draft quarterback scene is still in flux, but there are a number of prospects who could be considered first-rounders if the Steelers want to draft their passer of the future.
As of October, the class isn’t exactly shaping up to be the 2021 class Part 2, but there are still plenty of malleable prospects to come out.
- North Carolina’s Sam Howell was considered one of the best quarterback prospects of this year’s draft, but a down 2022 has torpedoed is draft stock. Depending on where the Steelers finish, there’s a good chance he may be available for their first-round selection.
- Liberty’s Malik Willis has also emerged as a first-round prospect through a month and a half of the college football season. The dual-threat passer has a massive arm and tremendous mobility, making for a very intriguing prospect
- Matt Corral is a Heisman favorite, and could be one of the top three quarterbacks off the board.
- What’s up with Spencer Rattler? The Oklahoma quarterback may have been benched for Caleb Williams, leaving his NFL Draft prospects questionable should he not regain the starter role the rest of the season.
The word is that Steelers coach Mike Tomlin doesn’t particularly want to start over with a rookie quarterback, but if the options are exhausted, then Pittsburgh may have no choice.