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Can Big Ben grasp Steelers' new offense? Maybe it's not that new after all

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The talk du jour around Ben Roethlisberger at veteran minicamp is on whether he can absorb the Pittsburgh Steelers' radical new offense. After all, new offensive coordinator Matt Canada is regarded as a wily fox who will frequently change up formations, use heavy motion and empty his bag of tricks in the playbook.

On top of that, Roethlisberger has had a cozy 17 years essentially running the same system. There might have been minor changes throughout that time, with slight variations depending on the coordinator but a lot of that was window dressing for the same abode.

“When you have had the same offense, or a similar offense for 17 years and all of a sudden something looks the same, but it’s called something different, it’s very different and a big challenge," Roethlisberger said. 

Ben Roethlisberger will have to learn a vastly different offense for the Pittsburgh Steelers this season. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Ben Roethlisberger will have to learn a vastly different offense for the Pittsburgh Steelers this season. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Canada's system uses entirely different verbiage. Roethlisberger will have to embrace adult education at age 39, in what could be his swan-song season.

“There is a lot of new,” Roethlisberger said. “It’s taking some extra studying, but it’s a fun, new challenge. Guys are getting it and hopefully it translates into winning football. ...

“We’ll throw a lot of different looks and schemes at people and see what works.”

The Steelers have +4000 odds of winning the Super Bowl, according to BetMGM. They have the third-best odds of winning the AFC North at +400, trailing the Baltimore Ravens (+115) and Browns (+150). 

Canada is warning that the sweeping changes might not be as vast as everyone assumes.

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So it sounds like Canada is changing up the terminology, but it's likely he'll cater his play-calling to what Roethlisberger and the Steelers best mesh with.

That wouldn't be unusual. Most quarterbacks, even those long into their careers, must learn to adjust at some point or another. Remember Tom Brady last season? Adapting to the Buccaneers' system, even for a legend in Brady, was not instant coffee. You could argue it took the first three-quarters of the season before Brady hit his stride in 2020 en route to the Super Bowl.

People worried about how Aaron Rodgers would adjust to Matt LaFleur's system prior to the 2019 season, but coming off Rodgers' 2020 MVP campaign that concern has been pushed way to the side in lieu of, uh, other, more pressing issues.

Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers, even Ryan Fitzpatrick — the list of aged quarterbacks who have had to adjust to various terminology and concepts (and had some measure of success) runs fairly deep.

Will Big Ben join that list this season? If not, it could be some other quarterback learning Canada's system in 2022.

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