The straw that finally broke the Pittsburgh Steelers’ back came on Monday with news of Ben Roethlisberger being placed on injured reserve with an elbow injury.
In the same year the team lost All-Pro receiver Antonio Brown and running back Le’Veon Bell, they are losing their starting quarterback, who was by all accounts the last beacon of hope for Super Bowl contention.
Whether it’s goodbye forever or a see you soon, there is little doubt the end is on the horizon for whatever is left of the Killer B’s.
Roethlisberger, who has been mulling over retirement for quite some time, was reportedly having trouble feeling his fingers in the aftermath of the injury.
After an MRI scan on Monday, it was determined he needed to undergo a surgical procedure later this week. Once he finishes his surgery, he can then begin the rehabilitation process and ultimately decide whether he wants to come back to football or not.
It should come as no surprise if his decision is the latter considering his long injury history and the current state of the Steelers’ football team.
While they boast plenty of young talent, they also look nothing like a playoff contender after the first two games of the season. Of course, those struggles come on the heels of them missing the playoffs entirely in 2018 for the first time in five years.
It’s hard to envision Roethlisberger opting to return if he doesn’t believe the team is capable of competing for a championship.
What’s the point of putting his body through further damage to serve as a 37-year-old quarterback on a rebuilding football team?
Roethlisberger, a two-time Super Bowl champion and six-time Pro Bowler, has nothing left to prove on the field.
The Steelers, on the other hand, will be forced to move on with business as usual with or without him.
They’ll use this season as an opportunity to get a real evaluation on Rudolph as a starter. Then they can make the decision of either sticking with him or possibly pulling off a trade or drafting a quarterback in 2020.
One thing is certain: The days of Roethlisberger running around and playing playground football with the best skilled position players in the league are over.
That high-powered offense that also featured Brown and Bell disguised so many other problems for the Steelers. They could literally line up across from nearly every team in the league and beat them from a mere talent perspective.
There was no touching that big-three on paper.
But now, Brown and Bell are playing football elsewhere, and Roethlisberger is a hobbled shell of the underappreciated and elite quarterback he used to be.
The Steelers’ organization has some serious soul searching to do in the offseason, which could also include the job of coach Mike Tomlin.
Do they want to continue clinging to the old guard in Pittsburgh, or is it time to wipe the slate clean and start over from scratch?
Rudolph’s performance as a starter, along with Roethlisberger’s recovery, will go a long way in helping determine that decision.
Change generally comes in small waves, but the Steelers have been hit with a tsunami of personnel troubles in 2019, setting the stage for what most believe will be another disappointing season.
There’s also no ignoring the alternative that fans are so quick to overlook. The Steelers have everything a young quarterback needs to be successful—a good offensive line, a No. 1 receiver, a versatile tight end and a reliable running back.
That might not be enough to compete for a playoff spot, but it could earn Rudolph a future starting job depending on how well he performs. There would obviously be no denying Roethlisberger if he makes a full recovery and opts to return for another season.
Even if he’s on the decline, his mere presence in the offense gives the Steelers their best chance of winning, despite Rudolph possibly being the better long-term option.
There’s also the fact that the Steelers never won a championship with Brown and Bell on the roster. Are we really expecting them to do so with an older and busted-up version of Roethlisberger behind center in 2020?
The end of an era doesn’t necessarily have to be a negative transition as long as Rudolph lives up to expectations.
We’ve seen so many great players come and go over the years, and the Steelers have still remained one of the golden franchises in the NFL.
The Killer B’s being deemed a relic of the past could give way to a new future in Pittsburgh—a future that might still uphold the tradition of winning without three of the franchise’s all-time greats.