Yes, it’s Ben Roethlisberger’s fault the Pittsburgh Steelers were eliminated from postseason contention.
No, that doesn’t change the fact he’s their franchise quarterback and should continue to be their centerpiece.
Mike Tomlin must simply enter the offseason with the No. 1 goal of surrounding Roethlisberger with more talent because he couldn’t get the job done with what was around him the past few weeks.
On Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals, Big Ben completed just 50 percent of his passes and threw two interceptions—the first, a Leon Hall pick-six, and the last, one by Reggie Nelson which helped set Josh Brown up for the game-winning field-goal attempt.
In any competition, the vast majority of the time it’s impossible to entirely blame a single individual for a loss. But in a 13-10 final, Pittsburgh would have been better off without Roethlisberger that afternoon.
According to Jamison Hensley of ESPN, Roethlisberger admitted he was at fault after the game.
We should be [going to the playoffs] if it wasn't for me. We did things to give us a chance to win the game but I blew it. They need better play from the quarterback.
Remember, though, before his rib injury, Pittsburgh was 6-3 despite James Harrison and Troy Polamalu’s health issues. Roethlisberger still has the ability to lead the Steelers to a Super Bowl. He just needs to harness it once again, and Kevin Colbert can help him do that by addressing the offense semi-early in the 2013 NFL draft.
Combine their need at outside linebacker and safety with the fact that there are loads of first-round caliber pass-rushers and second-round worthy safeties, and that’s the direction they should go right off the bat.
But in Round 3, Pittsburgh must address the running back position. Rashard Mendenhall, Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman are free agents, Dwyer and Redman being restricted. While all three showed flashes of brilliance this season, none of them consistently displayed the ability to be a featured back, and that’s why the Steelers ranked 26th in rushing yards this season.
There are plenty of talented backs who could be available in the third round, such as Stanford’s Stepfan Taylor, Alabama’s Eddie Lacy, Florida’s Mike Gillislee, Michigan State’s Le’Veon Bell and even Wisconsin’s Montee Ball.
Pittsburgh must also address its offensive line depth in one of the two rounds after. It has plenty of young talent in front of Big Ben, but injuries seem to derail the front five every single year—which, consequently, then leads to the quarterback taking more hits.
Now, don't get me wrong. A poor running game and offensive line didn't lead to Roethlisberger's crunch-time debacles the past few contests. But it's far easier to mask the QB's potential decline by adding talent around him than finding his replacement.
Roethlisberger has rebounded from poor seasons before. He followed up his 23-interception campaign with the most productive of his career.
If the Steelers bolster their rushing attack and O-line, he’ll bounce back with a vengeance in 2013.
David Daniels is a featured columnist at Bleacher Report and a syndicated writer.