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Former Steelers running back Jerome Bettis recently had a one-on-one interview with Ed Bouchette of The Athletic and much of the conversation revolved around the Steelers selecting running back Najee Harris out of Alabama in the first round and getting the ailing run game back on track.
The Hall of Fame running back thinks Harris will not only boost the Steelers' running game, but it will help prolong Ben Roethlisberger's career, as well.
“This pushes them in that direction in terms of, internally, whether or not they were 100 percent on board with running the football,” Bettis told Bouchette about the Steelers selecting Harris at 24th overall. “Now with this pick, it confirms ‘We are going to run the football,’ which is a great sign, especially if you want to preserve a Ben Roethlisberger because I believe that Ben has more than one year left in the tank if you can run the football and not ask him to throw the football 40 times a game.”
Many believe this year will be the last season for the 39-year-old Roethlisberger. And it's a common belief, as well, that the future Hall of Famer is already done and washed up. This notion stems from the Steelers collapsing down the stretch last year, losing five of their last six games of the season, including the 48-37 loss to the Browns in the wild-card game. Roethlisberger didn't play well either late in the season after having a stellar start to the year when some considered him a league MVP candidate.
In the first nine games, Roethlisberger had a 22-4 touchdown-interception ratio and had a quarterback rating over 100 seven times. In his last seven games of the season (including the playoff loss), Roethlisberger had a 15-10 touchdown-interception ratio and had a quarterback rating over 100 just once.
The first half of the season when Roethlisberger was playing lights out and the Steelers had a franchise-best start to a season at 11-0, gives Bettis the belief that Roethlisberger is not washed up. He thinks things just can't drastically change that quick.
“Yeah, I would expect him to” keep going if all goes well in ’21, Bettis said. “If you win 11 games in a row and you’re throwing the ball all over the field and suddenly you lose these last games of the season, now all of a sudden you’re washed up? It just doesn’t work.”
While Roethlisberger didn't play well in the playoff loss to the Browns, throwing four interceptions, three of which occurred in the first half and led to 14 points. It should be noted that in Week 16 against the Colts, Roethlisberger completed 69.4 percent of his passes for 341 yards and tossed three touchdowns passes in the second half to lead the Steelers to a 28-24 victory after trailing Indianapolis by 17 points late in the third quarter. The win over the Colts also clinched the AFC North title for the Steelers.