Steelers Beat Writer

Dale Lolley is a contributor to the Observer-Reporter and has been covering the Pittsburgh Steelers since 1993.

There is a small but very vocal segment of the media that seem to think the Steelers are doomed in 2020.

Their reasoning? Well, that’s where it gets a little murky.

Reason No. 1 seems to be a feeling that Ben Roethlisberger, at 38, can’t possibly return to form coming off an elbow injury.

But Roethlisberger looked good enough in a video he released on his Twitter account early last week that he felt it was time to trim up the beard that had him looking more like a lumberjack than a future Hall of Fame quarterback (more on that in a bit).

If the Steelers can get league average quarterback play out of Roethlisberger in 2020, they’ll be in good shape. Anything more than that and they are a legitimate Super Bowl contender.

After all, last season, according to FootballOutsiders.com, the Steelers had the NFL’s 30th-most productive passing attack.

But a quick look at what ranked as the median numbers last season shows the 16th-ranked quarterback had 3,603 passing yards with 22 touchdowns and a passer rating of 91.6.

Over the past 10 seasons – not counting the six quarters he played in 2019 – Roethlisberger has averaged 4,099 yards, 26 touchdowns and a passer rating of 95.5.

Even if he regresses slightly, he’s still better than a league-average quarterback.

There also seems to be a feeling the defense can’t possibly be as opportunistic as it was in 2019, when it led the league with 54 sacks and 38 forced turnovers.

But realize that those numbers were posted despite the Steelers holding a lead of more than two scores – at least nine points – for just 102 minutes last season. In those 102 minutes, the defense produced 10 sacks, five interceptions and recovered four fumbles. And that was with their own offense eating up around half of those 102 minutes.

Chances are, a healthy Roethlisberger gets this team up by two or more scores a lot more often in 2020.

So, despite the loss of nose tackle Javon Hargrave in free agency, the defense could actually post better numbers this season because of better quarterback play.

That’s why quarterbacks earn the big bucks.

Given the coverage it received nationally, you’d have thought Roethlisberger getting his beard trimmed at a Sewickley barber shop that was sup

  • posed to be shut down was right up there with Watergate in terms of news stories.

This is the world in which we now live unfortunately.

  • The Steelers made their individual game tickets available to the public Friday, but only released half of them.

The NFL hasn’t made any official announcement on what its social distancing rules will be when the season begins, but there is a general feeling there will be limited fans in the stadiums at some point.

Whether that is from the start of the season, or the league begins playing in front of empty stands before opening up gradually, remains to be seen.

  • The NFL will get the opportunity to see how things go with the other leagues. While Major League Baseball continues to wrestle with the Players’ Association on things such as salary compensation before it starts, the NHL is moving forward with its plans to hold a Stanley Cup tournament.

That will likely include 12 teams in each conference playing in empty arenas.

It’s better than nothing.

  • So, let me get this straight. We can open pools and summer camps in the yellow phase but we can’t have any recreational sports until we go green?

Yeah, that makes sense.

Then again, so little of what Gov. Tom Wolf and his people have done during their handling of this pandemic has made sense, I shouldn’t be surprised.

After all, Wolf and some other governors took people infected with a virus known to be especially tough on the elderly and forced them into nursing homes, killing thousands.

Why should he start making good decisions now?

  • If the Michael Jordan puff piece masquerading as a documentary on ESPN didn’t nauseate you enough, this one should. There are now talks of doing a similar piece on Tom Brady.

When these things are produced by and scripted at the whim of the subject, they aren’t documentaries. They’re propaganda.

That’s why so many of Jordan’s former teammates have taken umbrage with how they were portrayed in his piece, while Jordan is being touted as the greatest guy ever.

It would be interesting to see how Brady paints Bill Belichick if he actually does one, though. Their 20-year run together didn’t end on good terms.

Dale Lolley covers the Steelers for DKPittsburghSports.com and writes a Sunday column for the Observer-Reporter.

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