Ben Roethlisberger’s season-ending elbow injury could have an unintended impact on the Pittsburgh Steelers offense.
Roethlisberger went down in the team’s second game of the season and will now miss the rest of 2019, but it’s not just his throwing abilities that will be missed. As Colin Dunlap of KDKA-FM in Pittsburgh noted, Roethlisberger has clearly become the team’s on-field offensive coordinator and there is now a considerable drop-off without him leading the offense.
“It is also glaringly obvious Ben Roethlisberger is the offensive coordinator of this team and Randy Fichtner is the assistant coordinator,” Dunlap noted. “When Coach Ben is out and Coach Randy gets promoted to the mic, playcalling is atrocious.”
The Steelers struggled to move the ball in a 24-20 loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, managing just 239 yards of total offense and converting 3 of 12 third downs. Some of that can attributed to the learning curve for quarterback Mason Rudolph as he made his first career start, however, and Rudolph himself noted that he had a slow start.
After the game, the new starting quarterback said that the team’s defense kept them in the game, but the offense failed to hold up on its end.
“They played unbelievable and they did everything we asked of them,” Rudolph said, via Steelers Depot. “We’ve just got to back them up. We’ve got to have their back.”
Some of the criticism falling on Fitchner could come from his attempt to ease Rudolph into the NFL. As The Athletic noted, Fitchner has been keeping things very simple for the second-year quarterback, not giving him the workload that Roethlisberger had taken on. But with the veteran quarterback likely not on the sidelines during his recovery, the team could also lose his leadership and ability to break down defenses, which some believe is lacking in Fitchner.
Ben Roethlisberger to undergo elbow surgery, miss remainder of the season. pic.twitter.com/MO3ymBnECR— NFL (@NFL) September 16, 2019
Roethlisberger will miss the remainder of this season and could potentially miss much of the 2020 season as well if he needed Tommy John surgery for his elbow, but ESPN reported that this will not be the case. Reports indicate that while the exact nature of his elbow injury isn’t clear, he has avoided the worst-case scenario. Tommy John surgery is typically a procedure common for baseball pitchers but is incredibly rare for quarterbacks. Although the timetable on Roethlisberger’s recovery is still not yet fully known, he is now expected to be back by the start of next season.