There are lots of questions about how many more years Ben Roethlisberger will play, but Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey says it’s all about his protection.
Ben Roethlisberger surprised a lot of people when he revealed his desire to play several more seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Most claimed it was a result of the team’s drafting of Mason Rudolph. Center Maurkice Pouncey has a much different explanation.
Roethlisberger’s close friend insists that his quarterback’s desire to extend his career is all about the improved pass protection he’s enjoyed over the last several seasons. The numbers certainly back him up. From 2004 to 2014, Big Ben was sacked an average of 38.1 times per season. The total from 2015 to 2017 was cut down almost in half to a total of just 19.3.
Part of that is certainly a product of getting the ball out of Roethlisberger’s hand quicker, but the team’s investment in his offensive line has been pretty substantial. The team spent first-round picks on both Pouncey and right guard David DeCastro. Right tackle Marcus Gilbert was a second-round choice in 2011. Both Ramon Foster and Alejandro Vilanueva were undrafted, but each has established himself as a top quality NFL offensive lineman.
One thing Pouncey didn’t mention was the effect Le’Veon Bell has had on Roethlisberger’s career. He may be a difficult personality for the team’s front office to handle, but he’s been a Pro Bowler on the field. His presence in the lineup has allowed the Steelers to craft a much more balanced offensive game plan in recent years.
With all of these offensive advantages, it’s easy to see why Roethlisberger feels he can continue his career. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that a player who’s extended so many plays with his scrambling ability would also try to extend his career too. That does not, however, mean the Steelers are going to give him carte blanche to play as long as he likes.
The drafting of Rudolph was done with a clear purpose. The front office will be content to let him sit on the bench for a season or two, but they want him to become a starter at some point. That means Pouncey will likely have to protect a different quarterback before his time in Pittsburgh is through.