Ben Roethlisberger earned high praise within the Steelers organization as coaches reviewed his first game film in nearly a full year, although there are some concerns about the right side of the offensive line and the ability to protect him. Roethlisberger and the Steelers beat the Giants in Week 1, with the future Hall of Fame quarterback playing for the first time since Week 2 last year, when he suffered a season-ending elbow injury.
Roethlisberger was rusty early, but the coaches believed by the second half he was back in top form and making inroads with a group of receivers that, aside from JuJu Smith-Schuster, he has not had the opportunity to work much with in practice or games.
"He looked like Ben in the second half," as one member of the staff put it. "His throwing motion is slightly different but he's all the way back."
Roethlisberger, 38, cannot move like he used to, however, and for the first time in years there are some questions about the five-man group in front of him. Right guard David DeCastro is expected back from injury later this month, although he hasn't practiced fully in about a month with a knee injury and it's less than optimal to have him come into the season off an injury. The performance of rookie Kevin Dotson throughout the summer has the Steelers brass high on the guard and his ability to hold up, but the combination of inexperience on that side of the line could be an issue (Dotson is a candidate to kick out to tackle when DeCastro returns, sources said).
The Steelers were unsure at right tackle even before the season-ending injury to starter Zach Banner in Week 1, thrusting unproven Chuks Okorafor into that starting role now, while veteran versatile lineman Stefen Wisniewski was placed on IR after getting hurt in the opener. The depth and quality at those spots is already a concern.
"That ain't the line Ben is used to, I'm just telling you that," said one longtime NFL advance scout. "I'm starting to wonder about the left tackle a little bit, too, compared to how he played a few years ago, and the right side, for me, is a problem."
The departure of offensive line guru Mike Munchak to the Broncos before 2019 also stung the organization, with Munchak's ability to develop young linemen and influence the run game two major strengths. The Steelers are viewed by many as Super Bowl contenders, and they have few major weaknesses, but the offensive line will be watched closely.