Ben Roethlisberger‘s new dietary and workout regimes are key to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ chances in 2021. The Steelers are pinning their hopes on the surgically-repaired, 39-year-old quarterback staying the course. Big Ben will ultimately deliver, but he’ll likely never reach peak condition this season.
Roethlisberger won’t need to play at optimum fitness if top rookie Najee Harris revives the running game. Solid depth will also help, provided a reliable veteran tipped to be cut stays on the roster. Both Roethlisberger and his running backs will need the support of a stout offensive line, something the Steelers can ensure by signing a free agent with a Super Bowl ring on his resume.
Here’s what’s true or false for the Steelers in July. Make sure to check out the team’s June edition.
The Steelers Need Mitchell Schwartz?
True. NFL.com’s Cynthia Frelund thinks Mitchell Schwartz and the Steelers are a perfect fit. It’s hard to fault the logic of adding a proven right tackle to an O-line beret of star power after this offseason. Four starters, including center Maurkice Pouncey and guard David DeCastro, have left the cozy confines of Heinz Field.
That’s a lot of talent to replace, particularly at the interior, although ex-Carolina Panthers starter Trai Turner gets a shot to be the new DeCastro. Securing the edges can be just as important as building a line from the inside out. You only need to look at Schwartz’s former team for proof of that. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers mauled the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV because of injuries to bookend tackles Schwartz and Eric Fisher.
Schwartz can lock down either side of the group in front of Roethlisberger. Handing contracts to out-of-work vets isn’t usually the Steelers’ style. Yet, Turner’s one-year deal proves the franchise will pay for a short-term fix at a vital area of need.
Benny Snell Jr. Set to Be Cut?
False. Snell faces a challenge to keep his place in the running back room after the Steelers drafted Harris. The team also signed Kalen Ballage during free agency. Those factors have prompted ESPN’s Brooke Pryor to name Snell as a player in danger of facing the chop before the season. There’s still a chance, though, that Snell sticks around.
He’s a tough and resourceful runner with some breakaway speed. In other words, Snell can offer the same hardnosed qualities James Conner brought to bear. The Steelers will need an experienced grafter to help give Harris a breather and also educate the potential bell-cow of this backfield. Jaylen Samuels and Trey Edmunds are both less battle-tested in a Steelers uniform than Snell.
Devin Bush Jr. Lacks the Maturity to Be the Leader at Linebacker?
True. It’s not always a good idea to hold everybody to what they tweet, but Devin Bush’s recent activity on the social media platform has to concern head coach Mike Tomlin. Bush courted controversy by retweeting a video of a cat being injured after a lengthy fall. It was one part of a lot of Twitter activity that has left fans wondering about a linebacker who is supposed to take on a leadership role this season.
A few random tweets aren’t necessarily a cause for major concern. They don’t, however, read like the actions of a player coming of age entering his third year in the pros. The Steelers traded first-, second-, and third-round picks to select Bush 10th overall two years ago but are still waiting for a better return on that investment.
Bush hasn’t made 100 tackles in a season and has also been short of splash plays. It means there’s a lot of focus on him coming off the ACL injury that ended his season after five games in 2020. The Steelers have a proud tradition of outstanding linebackers, but Bush has plenty to prove before he’s ready to join that bracket.
Roethlisberger Will Be in Peak Condition for the Start of the Season?
False. Hype is building about Roethlisberger’s attempts to return to his physical peak. Broadcaster Ryan Burr recently talked up the quarterback’s commitment to excellence, although Adam Bittner of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette suspects Burr’s anonymous source “simply got a little too excited and isn’t the most reliable narrator for the situation.”
Whatever the truth about Roethlisberger’s condition, you have to doubt he’ll be at full fitness for the start of the season. He’s still striving to recapture the performance levels he produced before last year’s elbow surgery. Playing in a new system under offensive coordinator Matt Canada compounds the challenge facing Roethlisberger. A new scheme will give the aging signal-caller a fresh lease on life, but the turnaround will start slowly. Roethlisberger slowed down last season, so he’d be wiser to ease his way into an offense designed to ease his burden.
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