Execs, coaches analyze Ben Roethlisberger’s terrible Week 5 game, plus his future

 In Sports
Ben Roethlisberger had never thrown more than three interceptions in a game before Sunday, when he threw five during a 30-9 home loss to Jacksonville. Before this defeat, the Roethlisberger-era Pittsburgh Steelers had lost at home by more than 20 points just once, an NFL low, during his 13-plus seasons with the team.

How worried should the Steelers be about their 35-year-old, retirement-talking, mortality-musing quarterback?

Roethlisberger, having publicly mulled walking away from the game before the season, suggested to reporters Sunday that he might be finished. Is he? And what should the Steelers be thinking? Posing those questions to five seasoned coaches and evaluators drew out fascinating insights.

Not worried about this season

There wasn’t much for the Steelers’ offense to feel great about following Sunday’s loss to Jacksonville. Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

All five league insiders thought it was way too early for the Steelers or their fans to worry about Roethlisberger and the team in 2017.

“I’m not that worried at all,” one former general manager said. “He has been doing it long enough. I don’t think his skill set has evaporated. I just think he is on a bad little roll right now. Maybe I’m dead wrong, but that is kind of what I feel.”

Even before Roethlisberger’s self-doubting comments came to light, a coach with AFC North experience said he thought Roethlisberger, despite his legendary toughness, was right there with all the other quarterbacks who sometimes seem to revel in playing the role of drama queen. Publicly mulling retirement and publicly questioning his own play creates its own drama.

“Until I get more evidence, I’m going to say Ben is going to end up being better than he is right now and back to his normal self,” this coach said. “I just don’t think the team is in sync at all. It doesn’t feel right from the outside, but they are 3-2 and they are on top of the AFC North anyway. So, here we go.”

This coach noted that Chicago’s ability to run the ball put a level of pressure on the Steelers’ offense that they were not accustomed to facing. And then he called Jacksonville a “physical, tough-ass” team on defense that was primed to take advantage of a quarterback and offense that have not hit stride.

“It is way too early to panic,” an evaluator who has seen the Steelers in person this season said. “This is what happens when your guys hold out. What they really need is to stop the run and stop turning the ball over, and things will calm down.”

Running back Le’Veon Bell’s holdout through training camp has not been the only distraction. The Steelers drew more attention than most for their handling of the national anthem controversy. Receiver Antonio Brown has already lost his cool on the sideline and apologized. Meanwhile, Roethlisberger has been inconsistent.

“I have thought in the past they would kind of take a step back, and they really have not, but I think they still go through little slumps like everyone else,” the former GM said. “I think their core is still real.”

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