One of the rarest luxuries to have in the NFL is a franchise quarterback, and for the next year or two, the Steelers will still be one of about five teams that possess one, future Hall of Famer Ben Roethlisberger. Since 2004, no one has played the position like Big Ben has, and over the last four years, he has further evolved into being one of the league’s most complete quarterbacks. Where he once regularly beat secondaries by using his legs to extend and create big plays, he is now just as deadly launching bombs from the pocket.
In the beginning, Ken Whisenhunt brought Ben along slowly, as more of a game manager, even though he clearly displayed the capabilities for creating big plays from the get go. Under Bruce Arians, Ben gained a lot more freedom to improvise, which suited the big fella just fine, because the deeper pass routes in Arians’ offense allowed Roethlisberger to showcase his arm more. With those longer developing routes there was a price to be paid, which came in the form of some pretty brutal beatings when there was nowhere for Ben to go with the ball. Those beatings are were unacceptable to Dan Rooney, who decided a change was in order.
Todd Haley’s offense is all about keeping Ben healthy and upright by running shorter routes, allowing Ben to get rid of the ball quicker. Not only has his sack percentage dropped in Haley’s offense, Roethlisberger has also put up the most prolific numbers of his career as well. Along the way, Ben has become one of the very best at reading defenses and using his eyes to move defenders, creating space for his receivers. How good is Ben Roethlisberger? As much talent as Steelers have around Ben, the Steelers aren’t a playoff team without him.
The primary backup to Ben Roethlisberger the last couple of years has been Landry Jones, the former record setter out of the University of Oklahoma, and while Jones has had some good moments in his time under center, inconsistency remains his biggest problem. For most of one game Jones may look like a first round draft pick, but then the next time out he plays like an undrafted rookie free agent. While Landry Jones does possess all the tools a quarterback needs to win games, he hasn’t quite figured out how or when to apply them the way Charlie Batch did.
Where Batch could come in cold and find his rhythm within a drive or two, Jones seems to need the better part of a half to do so. Granted, Landry Jones has come a long way since he arrived as a fourth round draft pick in 2013, but the fact that the Steelers only signed him to a year deal seems to indicate that they might not be as confident in Jones as they let on. Another indication that they might be so sold on Landry is their fourth round selection of quarterback Josh Dobbs (Tennessee) in this year’s draft. Sure, the Steelers hope that Landry Jones continues to develop, but if he doesn’t, they’re not tied to him long term and it wouldn’t cost much to part ways either.
In 16 appearances with the Steelers, four of which have been starts, Landry Jones is 2-2 with an 82.8 passer rating. He has thrown 7 touchdown passes against 6 interceptions, and has completed 60.3% of his passes for 1,071 yards. Landy Jones’s stature as the primary backup was safe with Zach Mettenberger as the number three, but maybe not so much anymore with the presence of Dobbs.
When the Steelers selected Josh Dobbs with their fourth pick in the recent NFL Draft, it wasn’t to be Ben Roethlisberger’s eventual replacement, but rather to provide competition for Landry Jones. Dobbs brings with him not only an intriguing skill set, but quite literally the mind of a rocket scientist, which should allow him to pick up Todd Haley’s offense quickly. In each of his four years at the University of Tennessee, Dobbs showed noticeable improvement. His Senior year was his best, throwing for 2,936 yards, 27 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, with a completion percentage of 63.0%.
Along with a strong arm, Dobbs brings the kind of mobility to the offense not seen since Kordell Stewart, something that he was to quick to lean on at times during his college career. An unnamed former NFL general manager seems to believe, that with some minor adjustments to his mechanics, combined with more patience in the pocket, Dobbs can overtake Landry Jones by midseason. Whether that happens or not, Dobbs is by far a much better option than Zach Mettenberger ever was. Dobbs, like Mettenberger, has a million dollar arm, but he definitely won’t being held back by a ten cent head.
The amount of success the Steelers achieve this season, as well as their ability to move on to the Super Bowl, is directly related to the health of Ben Roethlisberger. There is no question that the Steelers have the most explosive offense in the NFL with LeVeon Bell, Antonio Brown, and Martavis Bryant, but that is only as long as Roethlisberger is pulling the trigger. If he can stay healthy, along with his weapons, it is conceivable that Ben can put up a 5,000 yard, 40 touchdown season that ends with the Steelers bringing home a seventh Lombardi Trophy.