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Saunders: Ben Roethlisberger Is Right about His Last O-Line



Steelers Ben Roethlisberger

Ben Roethlisberger has a point.

The former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback took a not-so-subtle shot at his old team during his Footbahlin podcast this week, emphasizing the decision the team made to roll with then-rookie third-round pick Kendrick Green at center for Roethlisberger’s final season of 2021.

Green has been in the news as the Steelers have been trying to convert him to fullback at training camp, and he seems to have some aptitude for the position.

RELATED: Saunders: Don’t Think Steelers Aren’t Serious about Kendrick Green at Fullback

Green’s inspired play as a big, mobile blocker has made for fun fodder in the second week of training camp, but let’s not lose sight of the big picture here. Even if Green turns out to be the best fullback in the league, he’ll have been a miserable failure of a third-round draft pick, both in terms of plan and execution.

The Steelers drafted Green after he played almost exclusively at guard with Illinois, then planned to move him to center, and start as a rookie in 2021, which was to be the final season of Roethlisberger’s career.

Green wasn’t the only project on that line. Fourth-round pick Dan Moore Jr. was immediately inserted as the starter at left tackle after an Zach Banner couldn’t recover from his knee injury. Trai Turner was a reclamation project that went nowhere.

There were reasons the line was so poor. The Steelers had salary cap problems — it should be noted that Roethlisberger’s salary was among the reasons for those problems — and also dealt with the double-barrel retirements of stalwarts David DeCastro and Maurkice Pouncey.

RELATED: Ben Roethlisberger Admits Look Room Was Different in Final Year

But it’s hard to look at what the plan was entering the 2021 season, and compare it to what the team is doing this offseason, and not feel bad for what Roethlisberger had to play behind.

This year, 2021 starting left guard Kevin Dotson — one of the few bright spots on that line — has been relegated to fourth string by the signing of Isaac Seumalo and Nate Herbig. Moore will eventually be replaced by first-round pick Broderick Jones. 

After not playing a snap in 2022, Green is now more likely to see playing time as a fullback than a lineman in 2023. It’s clear just how bad of a plan the Steelers had for Roethlisberger’s final season and how much better of a plan they have going into 2023.

Big Ben will be OK if you don’t feel bad for him, but he’s right to be critical of the front office for its failed 2021 plan. The slapdash attempt at rebuilding the offense line is being re-done in earnest in 2023 and when he watches this team led by Kenny Pickett, he probably wishes he had a chance to play behind this line instead.

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