Ben Roethlisberger has been one of the NFL’s most elite quarterbacks over the past two decades, but last season, Roethlisberger got injured and ended up missing 14 games. Yet Roethlisberger is not one to be counted out; he is a six time pro bowler and two time Super Bowl champion, not to mention his 56,000 career passing yards rank as the eighth most of all time and his 363 passing touchdowns rank as the ninth most of all time. With all the greatness Roethlisberger is known for, can he bounce back next season and win the NFL’s comeback player of the year award?
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Roethlisberger in 2018, his last full season of play, threw for a league high 5,129 yards and 34 touchdowns. Although he won’t have Antonio Brown in Pittsburgh like he did in 2018, Roethlisberger still has a high quality supporting cast.
Starting with the receiving corps, Juju Smith-Schuster looks ready to get back on track in 2020 after playing disappointingly a season ago. In 2018, Smith-Schuster had 111 receptions for 1400 yards under Big Ben’s leadership. Look for his 42 receptions and 552 receiving yards last season to increase under Roethlisberger as his quarterback.
Also, James Washington and Diontae Johnson have emerged into nice counterparts to Smith-Schuster in Pittsburgh’s offense. Washington had 44 catches for 735 yards in 2019, and Johnson had 59 catches for 680 yards and 5 touchdowns a season ago. Both Washington and Johnson help round out a nice group of receivers that will certainly play a vital role in Big Ben’s success next season.
Additionally, James Conner is an underappreciated runner who is dynamic and explosive both as a rusher and as a pass catcher. Last season, Conner struggled with injuries, but managed to rush for 460 yards and 4 touchdowns in 10 games. However in 2018, with Roethlisberger as his quarterback, Conner was much more successful, rushing for 973 yards and 12 touchdowns, while racking up 500 receiving yards on 55 catches. If able to stay healthy, Conner can really give Roethlisberger an explosive weapon to work with.
Furthermore, the Steelers added Eric Ebron in free agency to add one of the league's most elite red zone targets to an already potent offensive group. Ebron struggled last season in Indianapolis, but in 2018, Ebron showed his true colors catching 13 touchdown passes. A guy who can be as productive as Ebron in the red zone is really going to take Roethlisberger’s aerial attack to the next level.
Plus, Roethlisberger has one of the best offensive lines protecting him in Pittsburgh with Pro Bowl talents like Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, and Alejandro Villanueva. Not only does this elite group of lineman help protect Roethlisberger, but they also open up running room for James Conner to be effective.
Yet, when talking about the Steelers as a whole, it is impossible to ignore their outstanding defense. Pittsburgh has one of the NFL’s best shut down defenses, with guys like Devin Bush, Minkah Fitzpatrick, and TJ Watt helping wreak havoc all over the field. Pittsburgh also has outstanding corners like Joe Haden and Steven Nelson as well as the ability to rush the passer with Cam Heyward on the defensive line. Pittsburgh’s suffocating defensive unit will help Roethlisberger’s offense stay on the field; therefore allowing for Big Ben to potentially be more productive than he’s ever been before.
With everything seemingly headed in the right direction for the Steelers, Roethlisberger resurging in 2020 appears not to be out of the question. With a terrific supporting cast featuring elite playmakers and trusty targets, as well as a brick wall of an offensive line and a powerful defense, Ben Roethlisberger seems likely to not only bring Pittsburgh back to the playoffs, but to win the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year Award in 2020.