The Steelers are winners of four consecutive games and looking at an even softer schedule then they had during the first half of the season, so their prospects to make a run through the AFC were looking pretty good.
That was until franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger injured his shoulder during Monday night’s victory against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Now the rest of the Steelers season hangs in the balance on Roethlisberger’s right shoulder.
Roethlisberger is listed as questionable for Sunday night’s game against the Baltimore Ravens with a shoulder sprain, but given what has been said so far concerning the injury, expecting No. 7 in uniform Sunday night could be just wishful thinking.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said he is still awaiting more details on the injury and Roethlisberger’s status in unknown.
But in the time since last night we have heard that it could be more serious than originally thought and that the injury is comparable to one that a person might sustain in a car accident.
If all that is true, then the Steelers are in major trouble.
For one, they are 0-4 lifetime against Baltimore without Big Ben in uniform, but looking further, just look at where this team would be this season alone without Roethlisberger.
Roethlisberger is in the midst of the best season of his career and perhaps mounting an NFL MVP campaign. He is certainly the team’s MVP.
In adapting to offensive coordinator Todd Haley’s quick-hitting passing attack, Roethlisberger has the NFL’s sixth-best QBR (via ESPN.com) and is the league’s best on third downs this season. How valuable has Roethlisberger been this season? Half of the Steelers’ six wins have come from game-winning drives led by him.
To say anything except that the Steelers are his team would be incorrect. Franchise quarterbacks don’t grow on trees and the Steelers are very fortunate to have one, as some teams spend a lifetime looking for a signal caller like Roethlisberger.
Behind Roethlisberger stand 32-year-old Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch, who is 37. Leftwich is fragile and hasn’t started a game since 2009 in Atlanta. He’s a statue in the pocket and predictably looked like a quarterback who hasn’t played in two years before Monday night.
He gives you no confidence that he can move the Steelers’ offense. Neither does Batch, who if he had any good days, they are way behind him. Sure he has filled in for Roethlisberger in the past, and even guided the Steelers to a win against the Rams last season on Christmas Eve, but he is a guy who has been inactive every game this season and has gotten very few practice reps all year.
I know Steelers’ fans always love the backup quarterbacks, but to have confidence in either guy to move the team consistently is also wishful thinking. I may have some more hope if this team wasn’t as dependent on Big Ben as they are, but neither Batch nor Leftwich can get this team where they need to be as an offense.
Could either guy win a couple of regular season games? Certainly. If you take out the two Baltimore games, the Steelers’ schedule the rest of the way is very soft. But on the other hand, while the two backups could potentially win a couple of games, they will also more than likely lose a few that Roethlisberger wouldn’t have.
They may even be able to sneak into the playoffs if Roethlisberger were to miss an extended period of time, but there should be no confidence in either guy to move the offense.
Even when he was completely healthy, any success the Steelers had rode on the right arm of Roethlisberger. That’s even truer right now as the season hangs on the status of his right shoulder.