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Are the Steelers pushing out Ben Roethlisberger, in favor of Mason Rudolph?

Ben Roethlisberger was one of the Steelers’ biggest weak links this past season, and the team appears to be attempting to rectify that issue heading into its 2021 campaign.

Big Ben missed nearly the entirety of the 2019 season due to elbow surgery, which sparked talk of him looking refreshed and healthy in 2020. But given that he was 38 years of age, and had absorbed numerous hits from opposing players throughout his career, that claim was met with some skepticism — despite what Roethlisberger himself said.

And while he started out the season playing at a serviceable level, his play really dropped off around the midway point — with turnovers and inaccurate passes plaguing the offense. It was clear that the Steelers coaching staff scaled back its playbook and utilized a short and intermediate passing game to fit Roethlisberger, but the lack of vertical throws to stretch the the field really limited them.

It sure looks like the Steelers are attempting to coax Roethlisberger into retiring, too, rather than coming back to play out the final year of his contract, given what ownership has said to the media. In fact, a recent report from Ed Bouchette of The Athletic takes note of some recent moves the team has made, and intimates they’re looking to start Rudolph over Roethlisberger in 2021.

“Roethlisberger saw his closest friend on the team retire last week, center Maurkice Pouncey, whom he reportedly tried to persuade to return. That came after another friend, tight end Vance McDonald, retired and his offensive coordinator and former quarterbacks coach, Randy Fichtner, essentially was fired,” Bouchette wrote. “There could be more retirements, voluntary and involuntary, along with a gaggle of departing free agents. NFL Network reported Roethlisberger told the Steelers he would like JuJu Smith-Schuster to return.”

He continued:

“The assumption is Rudolph will start and there is little reason to think otherwise,” Bouchette noted. “While the absence of Roethlisberger would seem to leave the Steelers in a precarious position at quarterback, it at least would allow them to find out about Rudolph. Some in the organization believe he remains a possible starter beyond 2021, but they won’t know that unless he plays more.”

It sure makes sense to us, as Rudolph’s performance in Week 17 alone — specifically his ability to throw downfield — showed how much more he brings to the table than Big Ben does at this stage of his career.