The disagreement I had most with fellow Pittsburgh Steelers fans during the 2012 NFL season was about quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and his performance. I contended that Roethlisberger, even with the statistics he had, wasn’t playing with the confidence that I expected from him on a weekly basis.
So when Roethlisberger came out this week and said that he wasn’t playing with confidence in 2012, I felt more than a little vindicated. But more than that, it makes me believe that Steelers fans should expect amazing things from him in 2013. His talent level is on par with any of the top signal callers in the league. His ability to make a play when things break down is part of what makes him elite. But with all the potential turnover, is it realistic for me to expect him to be even better?
I would say yes. A big part of why his game suffered last season was because the offensive line really struggled to get any traction. Injuries and poor play crippled the running game and put Roethlisberger under constant duress. Going into 2013, it appears as if this line will be healthy and ready to play. I’m not terribly comfortable with Kelvin Beachum starting at guard, but aside from that, the front line should be much more athletic than last season. With another year of experience, I am confident that players like tackles Marcus Gilbert and Mike Adams will be healthy and much better prepared for the pro game.
Along those same lines, the skills players dealt with injuries of their own. The running game is a little up in the air and I won’t say that this is going to be a top unit in the league, but the truth is the run game needs to be a compliment to the passing game and not the other way around. Running backs Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman should be able to handle to bulk of the workload with a possible speed back brought in to replace the departed Chris Rainey.
The one snag in this whole plan of Roethlisberger and world domination are the receivers. Mike Wallace is almost certainly gone and tight end Heath Miller is going to be starting the season on the shelf after suffering an injury at the end of the year. But I look at it the other way. Roethlisberger is a playmaker first and foremost. This team may not have an elite group of pass catchers, but that will just highlight his ability to still thrive in that situation. If he doesn’t have a go-to guy right off the bat, he’s still going to find ways to make plays. A player like wide receiver Antonio Brown, with a full off-season to build that chemistry with Roethlisberger, could put up video-game like numbers with Ben throwing him the ball.
But regardless of what the makeup of this team may be, Roethlisberger is another year into this system and is going to enter into 2013 with much more confidence in the offense and himself. This means there is literally no limit to the things he can accomplish and no limit to how far the Steelers can go.