While younger quarterbacks like Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson and Josh Allen ascend into the pantheon of NFL greatness at that position, it seems like the old guard is dropping like flies.
Eli Manning called it a career after the 2019 season. Philip Rivers and Drew Brees both retired within the last two months. Even though it was announced that Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger would return for the 2021 NFL season, the organization has to realize that they are encroaching upon the end of the line with a player they drafted in 2004.
The Steelers had a sneak preview of what life would be like without Big Ben in 2019, when the veteran quarterback missed most of the season with an elbow injury. Roethlisberger came back in 2020 and played reasonably well but was not the same player Pittsburgh fans had become used to seeing in prior seasons.
NFL: Five players that could replace quarterback Ben Roethlisberger
As Pittsburgh prepare for life after Ben Roethlisberger, let's have a look at the five best alternatives that could replace him in the near future.
#1 Dwayne Haskins
In a low risk, potentially high reward, under-the-radar transaction, the Steelers scooped up former first-round quarterback Dwayne Haskins from the waiver wire after he was released by the Washington football team.
Because Mike Tomlin’s teams never finish below .500, seemingly, the Steelers won’t get close to having a top-5 or top-10 draft pick. So this might be the closest they get to grabbing a blue-chip prospect under center.
It’s a worthwhile gamble for the NFL team, since Haskins was just drafted in the first round in 2019. His stint in Washington was an unmitigated disaster, but now he seems to be on his best behavior, as he will hopefully realize that NFL starting chances are a privilege and not a right.
He’s not projected to see the field for a while, which will give him a chance to get his mind and game right when his number is called upon.
#2 Marcus Mariota
If and when Big Ben calls it quits after the 2021 NFL season, Pittsburgh will still figure to have one of the best rosters on paper in the league. They may not want to go into rebuilding mode right away and entrust the franchise on a young quarterback going through growing pains.
The Steelers could opt to select a player who may have already experienced his lumps in prior NFL seasons. Marcus Mariota was not impressive as the quarterback of the Tennessee Titans in his last few couple years with the team, but he did have a few big moments in playoff games with them.
Mariota also had a big game coming on in relief of Derek Carr for the Las Vegas Raiders this NFL season. Placing him in an established culture could make this fit a good one for both sides.
#3 Mitchell Trubisky
Bears fans who have watched Mitchell Trubisky play over the last four NFL seasons would laugh when thinking of him as the answer to anyone’s long-term quarterback questions.
Trubisky's perception has taken an absolute beating since he was taken ahead of Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson, and it’s warranted considering how good those players have gone on to become.
However, it might behoove Trubisky to get a fresh start and some time working with one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks in the last two decades. Even though he hasn’t put it all together yet, Trubisky is an athletic player who can make things happen with his legs. If he can harness his ability to make plays in the pocket, his NFL career could be redeemable.
#4 Teddy Bridgewater
The Carolina Panthers seem to be mentioned in the NFL rumor mill a lot lately with regards to possibly obtaining a new quarterback via the draft or blockbuster trade. Their quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater, remains under contract with the team and had a decent year with them in the NFL last season.
However, if the Panthers are looking to move on from him, the Steelers could be a reasonable landing spot for Bridgewater at the right price. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, he’s not exactly being paid backup money, so he might be more realistic for them if Carolina decide to outright release him.
Bridgewater is a solid, if unspectacular pro, and is good enough to keep an offense moving when called upon.
#5 Matt Ryan
It would seem rather unlikely, but the Pittsburgh Steelers could opt to replace a veteran quarterback like Ben Roethlisberger with another veteran. It’s hard to imagine Matt Ryan in anything but an Atlanta Falcons uniform, but there is a world where he might consider joining the Steelers.
As luck or fate would have it, Ryan has an out clause in his contract after the 2021 NFL season. If Atlanta struggle through another campaign, he could look to spend the twilight of his career with a team that has a better chance to win. That team could be Pittsburgh and could be appealing to Ryan if Roethlisberger hangs up his cleats after the next NFL season.