PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan) – Yikes, has Ben Roethlisberger been bad.
Really bad. Rick Strom bad. Steve Bono bad. Mike Quinn bad. Brian St. Pierre bad.
OK, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration (just a bit, though), but Big Ben has looked far from himself, regularly missing receivers high this season as the ball has seemingly floated along just how this team has — week to week with no real predictable trajectory.
It is, for Steelers fans, one of the most frustrating times in recent memory and shouldn’t get much easier with a trip to Kansas City and Alex Smith playing host this coming Sunday.
But all this got me to thinking … careful what you wish for.
Yes, be careful what you wish for.
You see, since Roethlisberger’s fifth interception on Sunday nestled into the waiting arms of a Jacksonville defender, there has been this overriding sentiment that he’s done and washed up from many corners of Steeler Nation — heck, I might be guilty of it to a degree. Check that, my knee jerk says exactly that. That I am guilty of saying such things.
There has been a rallying cry that Ben’s heart isn’t in it; that it is time to usher in the new era of Steelers quarterbacking by selecting someone in the first round of this coming draft, cultivating his talents and making him that starter-in-waiting, however long that waiting period might be.
And while I don’t fully disagree with all of that — especially drafting someone sooner, rather than later — Steeler Nation better be damn prepared for something: The day Ben Roethlisberger retires (and some get their wish) is the day this franchise immediately turns into a 4-12 or 5-11 team. They might win 6 games if they are lucky.
It will happen immediately. The drop off will be sharp and precipitous and will all be because Roethlisberger chose to hang them up.
You got that loud and clear, right? The on-field product for this organization will get really bad, really quickly.
This team will do well to look like those Mark Malone-led squads of the mid-1980s that I remember as a little kid. My, were they bad.
So, again, be careful what you wish for.
Certainly the performance against the Jaguars is not something from Roethlisberger that’s acceptable. It must be better, he must be better — and he admitted as much in postgame comments. The performance of Ben all season hasn’t been acceptable. He needs to be better, a whole lot better.
That said, the Steelers should be in the business — if they have a say in the decision — of bleeding every last game out of Roethlisberger that they can. He will be someone who, even at the tail end of his career, will give you a better shot at 80 percent of his skill level than almost everyone else at 100 percent of theirs.
Even as you will have to withstand the ugliness like everyone saw against the Jaguars on Sunday, Roethlisberger still — in my opinion — has the ability to dial up that magic here and there, a couple times a season. Not many have that ability.
Ben’s time is coming, for sure. But the Steelers should make sure to try to get at least another year or two after this one out of him.
Colin Dunlap is a featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weekdays from 5:40 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out his bio here.