The inevitable end to the Roethlisberger era

Why Pittsburgh Steelers fans need to jump on the Mason Rudolph bandwagon

There is a very dark cloud looming over the heads of Pittsburgh sports fans, and just when you think there is a light at the end of the tunnel with football season starting up again, marking the soon-to-be end of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ baseball season, the Pittsburgh Steelers football team led by “Big Ben” Roethlisberger has, once again, let us down.

Now, I know most “Yinzers” worship at the feet of the famous quarterback — our two-time Super Bowl champion who has been to the Pro Bowl six times, and has led the NFL in passing yards two times in his career, but let’s be real, he’s overrated.

I am already preparing myself for the backlash I am going to receive from that statement, but it’s a valid one.

Before the Steelers entered the limelight in the media with Le’Veon Bell’s 2018 season-ending hold out, and Antonio Brown’s prima donna orchestration that led to his eventual trade, the “Killer B’s” were said to be the best trio in the NFL. With Roethlisberger viewed as a first ballot Hall of Fame inductee, and Brown and Bell seen as the best players in the league at their respective positions, their offense should have been able to win them games even if their defense struggled.

The interesting point is that a Super Bowl was never brought back to Pittsburgh while these three were on the team together. How is that possible, when we had the best of the best? Top-tier players should be able to capitalize on golden opportunities when presented with them, yet our all-stars failed to even make a Super Bowl appearance, let alone compete for the title.

The last time the team played in the Super Bowl was 2011, and the last time they won a Super Bowl was 2009. To say the least, it has been a long drought for Steelers fans, and you would have thought with as much talent as we had in the Killer B’s, we would have secured a championship.

This past off-season, two-thirds of the electrifying trio uprooted themselves from Pittsburgh, leaving Roethlisberger to fend for himself. Granted, neither Bell nor Brown desired to stay and play in the Steel City, so in the grand scheme of things, we would rather have dedicated players who were committed to the success of the team, rather than individual glory.

With the recent news of Brown refusing to continue his football career in the NFL, it seems that it was in the Steelers’ best interest to let go of its star wide receiver, rather than dealing with his antics with the hopes that the benefits would outweigh the costs. In this case, they lucked out, and his talents will be wasted sitting on the couch watching prime-time football like the rest of us, instead of under the lights on the grandest stage.

Naturally, fans were depending on Roethlisberger to be the leader of the Steelers this season, but opening up with a 0-3 record was not exactly what fans had in mind. Fans felt defeated after the news that he suffered a season-ending elbow injury and would need surgery. Our leader of 15 years is out, and second-year quarterback from Oklahoma State, Mason Rudolph, needs to step in when we need a comeback season.

Should we be worried? Absolutely not.

If you can recall, Big Ben caught his big break when Tommy Maddox, the starting quarterback for the Steelers during Roethlisberger’s rookie year in 2004, went out with a season-ending elbow injury. That was the start of the Big Ben era in Pittsburgh, and this might just be the end. The parallels are undeniable, and I think it is worth giving Rudolph a chance — who knows, we might just be witnessing the beginning of a new era in Steelers history: the Rudolph era.

In all seriousness, it is time for Big Ben to retire and leave room for the team to rebuild, regroup and focus on returning to the Steelers of the old — the Steelers that everyone feared to play because it was so rare to pull out a win against them. Our organization has brought back six Super Bowl championships to its city, the first of any team to do so, and they did it with class and style. Whether it was a 99-yard pick-six by James Harrison or a shot in the dark toe-touching miracle catch by Santonio Holmes, the Steelers organization knows how to win championships.

We play hard-fought, rough and rugged football — or at least we did before Roethlisberger failed to continue this tradition within the past 10 years. We aren’t a team that settles with not making the playoffs. Every single year we should have the mindset that we are Super Bowl contenders, because we could be. I’m not sure if it was a lack of competitiveness, or if it was Big Ben just getting too comfortable with his position security, but he just isn’t the answer to our problems anymore, and it is time to move on.

I think it is worth giving Rudolph a chance — who knows, we might just be witnessing the beginning of a new era in Steelers history …”

— Taylor Renk, Class of 2020

Roethlisberger has two more years on his contract, and if I were him, I would hang up the cleats and retire while his career is still respectable, unlike Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning who decided to play a few too many years past his prime, and his recent statistics reflected it. If Roethlisberger cares about the Steelers and Pittsburgh as a whole, it’s time he removes himself from the equation, allowing us to start a new era.

Thank you for 15 years and two Super Bowls, Ben. Retire as a future first-ballot Hall of Fame Steelers quarterback. Let the young guys take over now.