Let’s at least put this scenario in play. Art Rooney has already made it fairly clear that he’s not happy with the recent antics involving his star quarterback.
While Ben Roethlisberger has yet to be convicted of (or, for that matter, charged with) a crime, he has proven beyond a shadow of doubt that he can be guilty of stupidity and severely bad judgment.
The word "trade" has been mentioned a few times in regards to this situation, so I’m going to try to figure out just how likely it would be that he would be traded, and to whom.
Fortunately for us, a precedent was set just last year, when Jay Cutler was shipped from Denver to Chicago, and I would expect a similar deal here, perhaps even a little more going to Pittsburgh than did to Denver.
Now, yes, I realize there is a big difference in the actual situations of Cutler and Roethlisberger, but that’s not what I’m focusing on here. I’m focusing on the details of the trade.
Just like Denver, I would assume that Pittsburgh will ask for a team’s starting QB in return. The terms of the Cutler trade included the quarterback and a fifth round draft pick going to Chicago in return for two first round picks (one for 2010), a third round pick, and Kyle Orton making their way back to Denver.
Any team that wants to have a realistic chance at landing Roethlisberger will have to look at that deal. They will have to offer two first round draft picks and a quarterback of some quality to Pittsburgh.
So, who are the candidates that might get a deal like this done? I am going to tackle that topic division by division, starting in Big Ben’s conference, the AFC.
First we have the AFC East, featuring Buffalo, Miami, New England, and the New York Jets. Of course, the first thing we can do is scratch the Jets and Patriots off the list. One should be quite happy with its QB (Brady), while the other just sold the farm a year ago to get in position to draft its QB (Mark Sanchez).
Buffalo makes an interesting choice though. This division has made a lot of news this offseason, including the acquisitions of Karlos Dansby, Brandon Marshall, and Santonio Holmes. But in Buffalo? Crickets.
The Steelers would probably be enticed by a trade with the Bills, who own the ninth pick in the draft and will in all likelihood have a similar position in next year’s draft. The Bills also have Trent Edwards, who could blossom in an offense such as Pittsburgh’s.
The drawback? The Bills themselves. Sure, they had the surprising T.O. signing recently, but other than that, when is the last time the Buffalo Bills surprised you at anything? Exactly! I wouldn’t give them more than a 15 percent chance of pulling off a trade.
But how about the Miami Dolphins? They also feature a pretty decent pick this year, but they are likely to improve their draft position, and perhaps drastically, for next year. They just acquired Brandon Marshall, and the question becomes, just how satisfied is Miami with Chad Henne? Certainly, the Dolphins would consider Roethlisberger an upgrade, plus Henne would be an enticing chip going back to Pittsburgh.
Here’s the problem: The trade for Marshall I just mentioned is likely to hinder any Dolphins move. That trade already mortgaged their second round for two years, and it would be highly unlikely that Miami would do the same with the first round during the same time period. Chance of Miami making this trade is likely less than 10 percent.
Let’s go ahead and move on the AFC North, the Steelers' division. Of course, first glance would tell us to skip this whole division and move on, but the Eagles have proven that anything is possible. So, let’s at least look at the candidates.
Baltimore is doing just fine with Joe Flacco, and Cincinnati is unlikely to want to part with Carson Palmer, especially since the Bengals have just molded and improved the offense to fit Palmer’s strengths.
That leaves us with Pittsburgh’s No. 1 rival, the Cleveland Browns—and this trade is just not going to happen. No matter how unhappy and disgusted Rooney may be with Big Ben, he’s not in the business of making his most hated division rival exponentially better. Plus, who is Cleveland going to send to Pittsburgh in return, Jake Delhomme? I give this whole division a near zero percent chance of landing Roethlisberger.
The problem with Tennessee is likely the same as the problem with Cleveland, and that is the QB coming to Pittsburgh. I don’t believe that the Steelers would have a whole lot of interest in Vince Young, though he did finally play better last season. Still, I don’t see Tennessee’s chances at any more than 10 percent, as I think they are finally ready to at least give Young that chance to be the unquestioned starter.
This leaves Jacksonville and a very interesting situation. David Garrard is 32 years old, but he may be tailor-made for the Steeler offense. They also own a top-10 pick in this year’s draft.
Jacksonville may also be desperate to make a splash like this to help with ticket sales. As much as Tim Tebow has been talked about in that town as a ticket seller, I would have to imagine a player the caliber of Roethlisberger will move the needle quite well himself.
Out of the teams mentioned so far, I would say Jacksonville has the best chance, around 35 percent, of landing Ben.
Finally, the AFC West. Not much to talk about here. San Diego is certainly out of the conversation, and so is Kansas City. It’s not that the Chiefs are set at QB; it’s that they’re likely out of position to do anything about their QB situation until next year. Plus, I don’t think Pittsburgh would have much interest in Matt Cassel.
Denver has been wheeling and dealing ever since Josh McDaniels came to town, so I won’t put anything past him, but at this point, I just don’t think Denver could afford a deal like this. Plus, would Pittsburgh care for Orton or Brady Quinn in return?
That leaves Oakland, which is still too stuck under JaMarcus Russell’s contract to make a serious bid here for Roethlisberger. Bruce Gradkowski may make a decent fit in Pittsburgh, but I just don’t see Oakland in position to make this move. I won’t count them out completely, but I will put them in the less than 10 percent chance category.
Now we move to the NFC. The only team here that I would have seen attempting a trade is Washington, but they just landed Donovan McNabb, so they’re out of the running. Dallas and New York are certainly happy with their high-paid QBs, and since Philadelphia just gave away McNabb in an effort to get Kevin Kolb on the field; they’re certainly not looking at their neighbors to the west right now. Maybe next year, but not now.
Then there’s the NFC North, which is about as stacked at QB as any division can get. Green Bay, Detroit, and Chicago are certainly out of play, and Minnesota is likely out as well. I’m almost completely certain Brett Favre is their 2010 quarterback, meaning no room for Roethlisberger. Without Favre, I would have to give Minnesota an outside chance, but the timing just isn’t good for the Vikings.
In the NFC South, we once again have three teams with no need for Big Ben. New Orleans just won a Super Bowl behind Drew Brees, so they’re set. Atlanta has had success and found their man in Matt Ryan, and the Bucs just went with a first rounder last year, Josh Freeman. If this was April of 2009, then perhaps Tampa Bay would be a big player (they reportedly were for Cutler), but not now.
That leaves Carolina, who would probably love to make a move like this, but have practically no chance at actually doing it. The problems? First, the fact that Carolina does not own a first round draft choice this year. Second, you can’t dangle a Matt Moore and hope to land a Ben Roethlisberger. So, while I give the Panthers a high percentage in want-to, their actual chance is less than 10 percent.
Now, for the most interesting division in the NFC, and perhaps the NFL, the West: Four teams, and all four could use Roethlisberger, so let us take a look at the real contenders.
Least likely to do this is the Rams, for two reasons. I don’t think Pittsburgh has any interest in moving that high up the draft, not to mention the chance of picking near the top again next year. Also, the Rams feature nothing at QB that would interest Pittsburgh. Still, I say their chance is somewhere around 10 percent.
Next is Seattle, which I think would be willing to part ways with Matt Hasselbeck in order to get Roethlisberger. Also, if Seattle really wants to sweeten the pot, they can tell Pittsburgh to forget about next year altogether and offer both first round picks from 2009. In Arizona, you have Matt Leinart, but their problem may be the opposite of St. Louis’: a draft pick too low to entice Pittsburgh
I’d say Seattle’s chance is somewhere in the 30 percent range, while Arizona’s is no more than 15 percent.
Finally, San Francisco is perhaps the favorite to land Roethlisberger if they’re interested. Like Seattle, San Fran could just offer Pittsburgh both of their 2009 first round picks, which would be a great start.
Also, San Francisco features Alex Smith, who, besides having already been tagged with the bust label by many, has been improving and really played well last year once he had weapons like Michael Crabtree and a motivated Vernon Davis to throw the ball to. Smith would have similar talent in Pittsburgh, which could quickly close the void left by Santonio Holmes with one of those first round picks they would have.
This is a trade that would let the Rooneys ship Roethlisberger about as far from Pittsburgh as they can, plus it would give Smith a well-deserved change of scenery. I would say that San Francisco’s chances of landing Roethlisberger if they want him is close to or even over 40 percent.
There you have it. After the breakdown, I really only see three teams in the kind of position to land Ben. The San Francisco 49ers, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Seattle Seahawks would have to be classified as the favorites.
Carolina would join the list, but without a first round pick they don’t, and Arizona is in a similar boat, probably picking too low for the Steelers to make that deal. Could a team like Buffalo shock the world and make this deal? They could, but I won’t believe that unless I see it.
Sascha Bartels is a member and contributor of pigskinheaven.com, the best site on the web for intelligent football conversation.