Steelers face a difficult choice


Saturday’s thrilling win over Cincinnati came at a huge cost for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Late in the game, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger took a shot from Vontez Burfict that tore ligaments in his shoulder and sprained his AC joint.

Ben Roethlisberger
Roethlisberger left Saturday’s game against the Bengals only to return and lead the game-winning drive. 

Monday seemed to offer comfort for Steelers nation as multiple sources reported that Roethlisberger would most likely play in the team’s next playoff game against Denver. However, Tuesday, Ben addressed the media and admitted that he has not tried throwing a football since the game. That does not inspire confidence.

Roethlisberger also said that he would play if he could, but would never take the field if he thought it would hurt his team. I don’t think Ben will be the best judge of that.

Roethlisberger did reenter the game on Saturday following his injury and made a handful of short throws to move the ball down the field. He didn’t look completely comfortable though, which makes you wonder if he will be able to run this high powered Steelers offense. Roethlisberger is a tough player, fighting through ankle injuries all season to play, but if he cannot make the throws required, then the team is better off with him on the bench.

This Broncos team that Pittsburgh will face this weekend is fresh off a bye and looking to avenge a loss from a month ago in the Steel City. Their defense is arguably the best in the league with probably the most depth at the outside pass rushing positions. Denver has excelled all season at pressuring the quarterback, registering the most sacks in the NFL. Denver also has a ball hawking secondary that has time and time again limited teams en route to becoming the league’s (enter ranking here) pass defense.

Mike Tomlin
Tomlin has not named a starter for this weekend’s game with Denver.

If I’m Mike Tomlin, knowing that Roethlisberger has a torn up throwing shoulder, I am starting his back up Landry Jones. He hasn’t started a playoff game before or won two Super Bowls like Roethlisberger, but a healthy Jones will keep the defense honest. With Big Ben under center, I could easily see Denver stacking the box on every play, daring Roethlisberger to throw it down field. With a bum shoulder, he would never be able to do it. Jones is definitely not as talented, but the threat of him throwing the ball down field should open up some other things for the Steelers offense.

Thinking more about it, I don’t know if I want to risk Roethlisberger either. Pittsburgh has a good young core that they have built around Roethlisberger. If he happened to injure his shoulder further in this game, a real possibility with how often Denver reaches the quarterback, the Steelers could be in danger of starting next season without Roethlisberger or jeopardizing his career. Big Ben isn’t so young any more, as this is his eleventh year in the league. Putting my franchise quarterback who has won two Super Bowls at risk is not high up on my to do list if I am Tomlin.

Earlier Wednesday, Pittsburgh announced that Roethlisberger would play in this weekend’s game against Denver, leaving me to shake my head once again. It does not seem to throw him back into the fire like that with the season on the line. It has also been well documented in the media just how banged up Big Ben is. That will likely provide those Broncos pass rushers a little extra incentive to get back there and nail Roethlisberger if they can.

There is very little to gain from putting an injury-riddled quarterback out on the field. There does not seem to be a way to fully protect Roethlisberger other than sitting him out of the contest. It would be in the best interest for both the team and for Ben himself. Landry Jones did not endear himself to the fans or the coaching staff when he threw that interception against Cincinatti, but for right now, he is there best, and realistically their only hope.

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