The Pittsburgh Steelers shocked just about everybody in the NFL when they rather handily beat the Buffalo Bills in the first game of the 2021 season. Expectations were reasonably high for the team given how dominant their defense was last year and will be again this year as key young pieces continue to develop, but taking down the second-best team in the AFC last year? In the first week? That exceeded even the loftiest of expectations.
Two weeks later, it looks like a mirage. The Steelers have dropped two in a row and have looked horrific offensively throughout. The defense is still good but injuries have taken them down a notch, which means the offense needed to step up to win games. They failed to do so. And while the offensive line is paltry, most of the blame falls on Ben Roethlisberger. He has been terrible, both through the lens of the eye test and the statistics. When he isn't falling down, he's throwing wobbly passes that are doomed from the moment he releases the ball.
This is a very big problem for Pittsburgh because they have invested no resources in finding Big Ben's successor, even as his play clearly fell off a cliff over the last three years. Their only backups on the roster right now are Mason Rudolph, who looked real bad after he took over the offense following Roethlisberger's shoulder injury in 2019, and Dwayne Haskins, who has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns in two professional seasons. The last time the Steelers spent a draft pick on a quarterback was Rudolph in 2018.
Ryan Clark, who goes to bat for the organization on television weekly after spending much of his playing career there, denounced it all as an "organizational failure" by Pittsburgh.
It's hard to view it any other way. If the organization wants to give the greatest QB in franchise history one last shot at a ring despite obvious signs of decline, fine. But to do so without looking into any backup plan at all? To simply refuse to acknowledge what is clear and obvious, in the process sabotaging their immediate future?
The Steelers have a great defense built around two young cornerstones in TJ Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick. That kind of talent at those two positions means Pittsburgh's defense will be average at worst over the next five years. But there is no speaking to the depths to which the offense can fall with Big Ben out there now and with no reliable option to turn towards.
Hope is hard to find for Pittsburgh. Despite the obvious, clear-cut talent they have littered on the roster. That, as Clark accurately surmised, is an utter failure.