Ben Roethlisberger, Succession Planning, And The Pittsburgh Steelers

By Jeremy Hritz

The Pittsburgh Steelers have been fortunate over the past ten seasons to have a franchise quarterback that has kept them competitive, never finishing a season below 8-8, and always staying in the hunt for the playoffs. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and eventually, the magic that Ben Roethlisberger has brought to the Steelers and to the city of Pittsburgh will end.

And when that day comes, the Steelers had better be prepared.

Most Steelers fans remember the period of dreadful quarterback play that existed in between the careers of Terry Bradshaw and Roethlisberger, and it was an epoch characterized by mediocre teams on the outside looking in at the playoffs, or when the overall team was good enough to make the playoffs, average quarterback play doomed the Steelers in the end.

In a league that is dominated by elite quarterbacks, look no further than Sunday’s AFC Championship contest between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, not having one is the difference between being a contender and a one-and-done. Without Roethlisberger, the Steelers would be an average, if not a below-average team, and the organization would be wise to prepare for his departure in advance. In other words, the Steelers should have a succession plan.

Having a succession plan would be a proactive effort to ensure solid quarterback play to avoid a decline in play at the position. And while it doesn’t guarantee success, it is a strategic and smart attempt to avoid a backslide. And there is nothing to lose. If it works out, you’re a genius, if it doesn’t, the search for Roethlisberger’s replacement continues.

The most recognized example of succession planning in the NFL is the Green Bay Packers and Aaron Rodgers. While Brett Favre still had life in his game, the Packers drafted Rodgers 24th overall in the first round in 2005, and it paid off as Rodgers watched and learned the ropes for three years and then stepped in to become one of the best quarterbacks in the game, including winning a Super Bowl in his sixth year.

Roethlisberger still has five good years left, excluding a significant injury, and in three years, maybe even two, the Steelers would be wise to draft a potential successor. That would allow the new prospect the appropriate time to develop and become the QB of the Steelers future.

The quarterback position is too important to leave to chance, and as the league evolves, I expect more and more teams with franchise quarterbacks to utilize such an approach moving forward. While it may not always work out as expected because of the erratic nature of the draft, it is an intelligent approach to building for the future of a team.

It will be a sad, sad day when Ben plays his last down in a black and gold uniform, but having a young apprentice to graciously take the reins from the Pittsburgh legend can make the loss easier to manage.

  • Rob H

    Great, now you guys are going to start with the embedded videos that start loading automatically to? I freaking hate that, especially when it’s a commercial. Sorry to be off topic, but that has become my biggest “pet peeve” when it comes to internet sites.

  • Callentown

    Yeah but…. we already have Landry Jones.

  • Steve

    What your saying is true, but the Big Questions is will a Big Time Quarterback be available at #15 ?? Numerous teams have drafted good QB’s, looks at San Fran (Smith + Kapernick), San Diego (Brees + Rivers) it is just a matter of having good coaches to develope these players as they bide their time before starting.

  • Jim Underwood

    Yeah we’re set through 2025..

  • Busforever

    This is the theorically wise approach, but the reality in modern nfl is that no team (neither fans or analysts) will wait more than 2 years to throw the young QB on the field. And he better be ready, or he won’t have a second contract, and the team will draft another QB. Aaron Rodgers is an exception. The vast majority of modern elite QB were tested in their first 2 years. If we assume that Big Ben has 5 more years left in the tank, I assume that no QB will be drafted before april 2017, other than some late round to fill the depth. The fact that you don’t even consider Landry Jones as an option, as you talk about future draft, proves that despite what you say, you are not ready to be wise and patient with a QB who disapointed in his rookie season.