Media members, including this one, have already begun trying to figure out who will quarterback the Steelers in 2022 in the event that this is indeed Ben Roethlisberger's final season in Pittsburgh. Veterans Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson, Pitt Panthers phenom Kenny Pickett, as well as current Pittsburgh backup quarterback Mason Rudolph have been projected as possible options for the Steelers.
Another player whose name may start to enter the conversion is Ravens second-year quarterback Tyler Huntley, who has played exceptionally well in relief of Lamar Jackson this season. When asked about the possibility of Huntley being the Steelers' quarterback next season, CBS Sports' Evan Washburn believes that Huntley will be among the Ravens' top offseason priorities.
"There's no doubt that he's got ability," said Washburn, who had a front-row seat to Huntley's progress this summer as a member of Baltimore's preseason broadcasts. "He's a confident, young player that just needs reps. I think his value in Baltimore is more than it would be in any of the 31 other teams, including Pittsburgh. What it allows this offense to do when Lamar either is removed from the game due to illness, injury, whatever it might be, they don't have to change play calls. They don't have to change the scheme.
"They're not going to get the same amount of production; by no means is Tyler Huntley Lamar Jackson. But he can run the Lamar Jackson offense. And that is a luxury that not many teams have when it comes to their backup. ... I think they will realize, especially after this season, he has some value [in Baltimore], and I'm sure they'll take care of him. They've got to take care of Lamar first. That's the major contract, then I'm sure Huntley will become a priority as well. And I don't necessarily see him -- despite what he's done in limited action -- as a guy that teams are going to target to maybe be their franchise quarterback."
While the Ravens will likely try to keep him, it will be interesting to see if there is indeed a market for Huntley, an undrafted player who is nearing the end of his one-year, $780,000 contract. In his first career start, Huntley went 26 of 36 for 219 yards that included a game-winning drive in Baltimore's 16-13 win in Chicago. On the game's deciding play, Huntley -- despite heavy pressure from Bears linebacker Robert Quinn -- kept his poise before firing a 29-yard completion to Sammy Watkins that set up Justin Tucker's game-winning field goal.
This past Sunday, Huntley entered the Ravens' game in Cleveland after Jackson went down with an ankle injury on the first play of the second quarter. With the Ravens already behind 10-3, the Browns' lead swelled to 24-3 before Huntley directed four scoring drives while getting Baltimore to within two points of the Browns. Huntley, who finished the game with 270 yards passing and 45 more on the ground, capped off his performance with his first regular-season touchdown pass, an 8-yard toss to tight end Mark Andrews. The score was set up by Huntley's 30-yard completion to rookie Rashod Bateman on fourth down on the previous play.
"Tyler Huntley did an excellent job," former Ravens head coach and Super Bowl XXXV champion Brian Billick said of Huntley's performance in Cleveland. "He had some tough looks and was able to get the ball to Andrews and Bateman on big plays."
While the Steelers' quarterback situation for next season remains a mystery, Pittsburgh fans continue to brace themselves for the inevitable end of the Roethlisberger era. Despite a new offensive coordinator, an extremely young offensive line and the loss of receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster in Week 5, Roethlisberger's season completion percentage is nearly a point higher than his career average. Roethlisberger, who last week became the sixth player in NFL history with 15 3,000-yard passing seasons, has more than twice as many touchdowns (19) as interceptions (seven) this season.
"He's as resilient a player as we've had in this generation," Washburn said, "and I think that's helped him navigate through a challenging season. ... What I've noticed from Ben is finding a way to win games or finding a way to be productive offensively."
Roethlisberger's play has helped keep the Steelers (who are 6-6-1 entering Sunday's home game against the Titans) in playoff contention. And while the standard remains high in Pittsburgh, Washburn feels that making the playoffs this season would be a successful ending if this is indeed the end of Roethlisberger's decorated run with the Steelers.
"Getting to the playoffs, and if they could win a wild card game, I think that that is something," Washburn said. "Ben's going to want a Super Bowl. Mike Tomlin's going to want a Super Bowl. That's the way they're wired. But if you're a Steelers fan and you want to see Ben go out -- if this is truly his last season -- the way that he deserves to go out, I think that getting and fighting their way into the playoffs would kind of personify what he's done his entire career. ... I think that that to me would be a reasonable, positive way to end the season."