In many ways, the NFL and pro wrestling mirror one another. Both feature players and characters that we either love or hate, and both feature heartbreaking goodbyes from the ones we grow to love.
One goodbye that immediately comes to mind is that of 16-time World Champion Ric Flair. As his days were clearly numbered, rumors began to hit the dirt sheets that Flair would soon retire, and that his next big loss would be his last. The same thing can be said about Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, and much like the Nature Boy went out at the hands of a sweet chin music from Shawn Michaels at Wrestle Mania XXIV, Big Ben should call it a career following the Steelers' Wildcard loss to the Cleveland Browns.
It just seems like the right time, doesn't it? The Wildcard game was the most Ben Roethlisberger-esque performance I can think of; battling through early mistakes, not quitting, getting your team back in a position to win, and breaking records in the process.
The hopes of Big Ben riding into the sunset with a third Lombardi by his side seemed to be a realistic possibility in the midst of the franchise's best start in history. But over the last month, when the team lost four of their last five in the regular season, it became evident that it was more of a pipe dream than anything.
With the abysmal cap situation that Pittsburgh faces in 2021 combined with the plethora of talent they simply can't afford to bring back, it only feels right that future Hall of Famer hang up the cleats.
So, where would that leave Pittsburgh? Well, the defense will still be among the best in the league, even if Bud Dupree and Mike Hilton won't be returning, and the offense is flooded with great receiving talent and are a few tune-ups away through the draft and/or free agency from being a really good all-around unit. This means that the team is still very much in win-now mode and should target a veteran quarterback to steer the ship; here are the three best choices.
While it may not be the popular choice among Steelers fans, it would still be an upgrade over what would remain on Pittsburgh's roster. Yes, the 30 interceptions are a giant red flag, so let's just address that and get it out of the way; his turnovers in 2019 were atrocious, and he deserves all the criticism he has gotten for them. That being said, he also led the NFL in passing yards that season, and no one can deny his raw arm talent. While he wouldn't be my first choice, Pittsburgh could do worse.
The former No. 3 overall pick has hit rock bottom to no fault of his own. The Jets' incompetence as an organization has failed Sam Darnold by not giving him anything near adequate offensive talent and trading away key players, including All-Pro Safety Jamal Adams. Darnold's arm talent is obvious, as is his heart and lust for winning. We saw it in the team's early season Thursday night matchup with Denver when he ran through the Broncos defense for a long touchdown and came back in the game after a very clear and serious shoulder injury. The Steelers would be getting a young quarterback of the future who has skills that could become upper echelon with the right coaching and talent around him.
Acquiring Stafford would make the Steelers more of a contender than they were this season. Stafford has long been not just one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the league, but one of the most underrated players, period. His arm is among the five best in the league, and with the Lions heading for yet another rebuild, Stafford could very well be looking to move on. If Pittsburgh wants to remain contenders in the era after Roethlisberger, you can't do much better than Matthew Stafford.