It is is no secret that Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is getting up there in age and carries the burden of a significant cap hit going forward.
With the 38-year-old approaching the end of his 17th season and a year remaining on his contract, some are suggesting the Steelers should make a trade to acquire his successor, including an anonymous NFL executive.
According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, an executive from an NFC club suggested that Pittsburgh should explore a trade for New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold and groom him as Roethlisberger’s heir.
Whether Roethlisberger plays out the remainder of his contract or signs an extension this offseason, he is going to cost the Steelers a pretty penny. The anonymous executive told Fowler that the most prudent move for the club would be to have Roethlisberger play out the remaining year of his contract under the $41.25 million cap hit, while simultaneously preparing Darnold for the right time.
This, the executive says, would both keep the relationship between the Steelers and Roethlisberger intact, while also securing their future.
“Darnold needs to be repaired and that would help a team buy low,” the executive told Fowler. “It probably wouldn’t cost a team much draft capital, and he could use a year behind the scenes with an established organization, but there’s still talent there. A lot of people are high on his skill set. That’s (a setup) that would keep Roethlisberger and the Steelers together without a long-term commitment.”
The Jets may have missed out on the Trevor Lawrence sweepstakes, but that does not mean they are content with Darnold moving forward, as they will have their pick of any of the other available quarterbacks this draft cycle, including Ohio State’s Justin Fields.
Selected with the third pick in the 2018 NFL Draft out of USC, Darnold has been inconsistent over his first three seasons, mainly a product of the inept Jets and a lack of weapons.
He has thrown for 7,831 yards with 44 touchdowns and 37 interceptions in three years in New York.
Roethlisberger looked strong to start the year, coming off an elbow injury that ended his 2019 season, but sputtered over the last few weeks, which raised concerns about his long-term outlook as the Steelers quarterback.
The two-time Super Bowl champ struggled over Pittsburgh’s recent long streak, completing just 58% of his passes for 221 yards per game with five touchdowns and four interceptions. Roethlisberger did turn things around in the second half of Sunday’s comeback win over the Indianapolis Colts, finishing with 342 passing yards and three touchdowns.
Regardless of how this season ends, Roethlisberger is set to turn 39 in March, and the Steelers still do not have a bonafide answer at quarterback for the future.
Darnold may or may not be the answer, but the clock is still ticking on the Steelers finding an heir apparent all the same.