One way or another, like it or not, the Pittsburgh Steelers are all-in on Ben Roethlisberger for the 2021 season. Beyond that is, of course, up in the air, but with their moves that they have made this offseason, they have made good on the perception that they’re looking to possibly cap off the future Hall of Famer’s career with another Lombardi.
It may also be the final season for JuJu Smith-Schuster in Pittsburgh, after the fifth-year wide receiver signed a one-year deal to come back during free agency. And he still thinks his 39-year-old compatriot can sling the ball around the yard.
“I believe he has something left”, he told Cody Benjamin for CBS Sports. “A lot of people just go off their age, but he’s a guy who’s been doing it at the highest level for a while. I’d definitely take him over most other guys, because although he is older, his experience is up there”.
He certainly is experienced. Roethlisberger is entering his 18th season in the NFL in 2021 after playing 15 games a year ago (resting in the season finale). He went 399-for-608 last year, throwing for 3803 yards with 33 touchdown passes to 10 interceptions.
Smith-Schuster also sees his leadership as more valuable than ever this year, given the significant departures that they have had, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, which largely came through retirement, but also through the free agency process.
“When you lose guys like Maurkice Pouncey, like Al Villanueva, it’s tough to find leaders”, the 24-year-old wide receiver said. “Now, it’s maybe Dave DeCastro, and me, but I’m still young, so he’s important in that way, too”.
Outside of Roethlisberger and DeCastro, and, sort of, B.J. Finney, Smith-Schuster is the longest-tenured member of the Steelers’ offense now, with Pouncey and tight end Vance McDonald now gone. Given how young he still is, obviously, that feels somewhat remarkable, but the mere fact that he’s only in his fifth season is also notable.
Roethlisberger has played more than three times as long so far, but virtually everybody who follows football is questioning how much he has left. It almost seemed to be the majority opinion that the Steelers should move on from him, under the assumption that they would not be able to win a championship with him.
The front office didn’t listen to those voices, though perhaps if they were in a different position, such as drafting somewhere that they could pick up a franchise-capable quarterback prospect, things might have gone in a different direction. But they didn’t, so they’re getting one more season of the guy Smith-Schuster would take over “most other guys”.