Despite what Cris Carter might say, Ben Roethlisberger did what he typically does in his postgame press conference. After the Pittsburgh Steelers dropped their home opener to the Las Vegas Raiders, the 18-year veteran quarterback shouldered all the blame for the defeat.
"We need everything. There's not one thing, it just starts with the quarterback and me, I have to be better," Roethlisberger said. "And once we get it figured out, that helps the run game, it helps the short passing game, the explosion plays. So, like I said, not watching it yet, I'll go back and watch it tonight, but just the feeling I have is I didn't play good enough."
It's a noble trait that the national media overlooks far too often, and it's understandable why Ben said what he said.
However, Ben was not the problem on Sunday.
There were many reasons why the Steelers came away from their home opener—the first game where Heinz Field hosted a sold-out crowd since 2019—with a 1-1 record. Injuries decimated the defense, the offensive line struggled mightily and head coach Mike Tomlin lived in his fears when he decided to punt on a crucial fourth and one with just over eight minutes remaining and the team trailing by nine points.
As for Ben himself, he was okay. Just fine. Nothing spectacular, but nothing that put the team in an insurmountable hole. There were a few missed throws, a couple of forced ones, but still a few that were right on the money.
And if this Sunday showed Steelers fans anything, this might be the Big Ben you'll see from now on: just fine.
For so long, Steeler Nation has been dazzled by Roethlisberger's ability. From shedding 300-pound lineman to extending plays far beyond what just about any other quarterback is capable of, Big Ben has earned an eventual spot in Canton as one of the best gun-slinging backyard quarterbacks to ever play the game.
But he's not that guy anymore. In fact, he hasn't been that guy for a few years. But as time goes on, Roethlisberger's ability to zip the ball into tight windows from the pocket has deteriorated. It's more than understandable. The 39-year-old is in his 18th season. There's a lot of mileage on that surgically-repaired arm.
In the mid-2010s, the Steelers could rely on Ben and a supercharged offense to carry the team to wins that should have been losses if another quarterback was under center. The defense was in transition and could only do so much. If you need more proof of that, go watch that dreadful Divisional Playoff against Blake Bortles and the Jacksonville Jaguars.
But now, the script is flipped. The defense is the strength of the team. Big Ben is not only on the back-nine of his career, but he may be teeing off on the 18th hole. It's unfair to rely on him the way the team did five years ago. He's good enough to get the job done most of the time, but his days of carrying the team to wins throughout the season are over.
Does he still have a bit of magic in that arm to carry the team to a win or two? I believe so, yes. But he needs a supporting cast if the Steelers are to make a serious push for a spot in the playoffs. Sunday showed what may happen if the defense can't live up to standards, whether it be because of injuries or performance.
Then there's the offensive line. Even keeping Ben healthy from the pocket this year will be a tall task. If Ben takes too many shots like this, he won't make it through the season.
Steelers fans are so used to seeing Ben be great. Seeing him be anything less than that is just a harsh reminder that Father Time remains undefeated (although, Tom Brady might be looking to end that streak).
If the Steelers are to win this year, it will truly have to be a team effort. This is a very young group of offense with a first-year coordinator and quarterback in the twilight of his career. Not too sound too cliché, but all good things must come to an end. We started to see the drop off last season. And after the first two games of this year, it sure looks like we are seeing the beginning of the end of Big Ben's tenure as the quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
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