With the season on the brink a hushed Edward Jones Dome full of Pittsburgh Steelers fans (and literally millions of others throughout the world) watched helplessly as the unimaginable horror movie played before them:
Ben Roethlisberger on the ground clenching his knee.
Forget that the Steelers won 12-6. There was only one storyline.
Ben Roethlisberger on the ground clenching his knee.
The reality of the salary cap era is that if you lose your franchise quarterback, you lose your season. When you are committing over 100 million dollars to one player, when he falls, the team falls with him.
Yes…we could still have a winning season. Yes…we might squeeze into the playoffs. But if Ben Roethlisberger was ruled out for the year…be honest…it would already be time to start thinking about next year’s NFL Draft.
Fortunately, dreams come true, and we’re talking about an MCL rather than an ACL. So with the hope of a Super Bowl run renewed, here are your Rapid Fire Conclusions:
Greatest Show On Turf?
In bizarre fashion, the Steelers and Rams game was delayed because of all things, the turf caught on fire. After about 25 minutes of hectic scurrying by the field crew they pronounced the burned out portion fully repaired. But as the cameras panned back a question became obvious: “Yeah, what about the rest of the field?” The Rams stadium is ranked one of the worst and the field with its seam marks and outdated turf has to be one of the more dangerous to play on. It’s amazing with the NFL being a multi-billion dollar industry and with player contracts in the tens of millions that the fields can’t be in pristine condition all of the time. This is certainly one area where European soccer has an edge. Want to see grass fields done right? Watch a few of those matches.
Not too many years ago the Steelers had arguably the best back-up quarterbacks in the league. They had Byron Leftwich who at one point in his career was considered a top five quarterback and Charlie Batch, a one-time rookie sensation who was the ultimate pinch hitter. He knew the offense better than Ben. This season, the Steelers chose the “Let’s Just Keep Roethlisberger Upright” strategy. By putting their head in the sand they now are marching out journeyman Michael Vick to keep the boat afloat. Vick has a 6-13 record as a starter over the past three seasons and his 2014 quarterback rating was 21.4, which is last among those slingers who had at least 100 attempts. He plays with a completely different style than Big Ben so it will require a shift in offensive strategy. He has serious ball security issues and is injury prone. Oh…and he is so new to the team he barely understands the system. Backing him up is Landry Jones,who in his brief time with the Steelers hasn’t truly established that he belongs in the NFL. The argument is that there weren’t a whole lot of other options in the league. Really? No free agency over the past couple of seasons? No opportunity to trade with another team? Everything is negotiable. Just ask Donald Trump. The Steelers have one of the most powerful offenses in the NFL…a Maserati…and now they have no one they can truly trust to hand over the keys. As fans, we need to hope that Vick can surprise everyone, and he is capable of occasional bursts of greatness. But relying on hope is not the strategy of a top-performing NFL front office. This situation, sadly, was all too predictable.
There is no question the impressive record breaking runs of All-World wide receiver Antonio Brown will be at serious risk with Big Ben healing from the sidelines. Yet, fortunately for the Steelers they have not only have the league’s best receiver, but they also boast the finest running back in LeVeon Bell. Bell’s return to the field against the St. Louis Rams was absolutely electrifying. It was clear he was pumped to be back and anxious to make up for the lost time of the first two games he missed due to suspension. His strength and agility on the field makes the rest of the players appear to be weak and slow, and that is no small task when considering he is playing against some of the finest athletes in the world. With Big Ben out for a considerable amount of time, the team would do well to re-center the offense around the ultra-talented Bell. Those are shoulders that can carry the load. Oh…and that young fella, DeAngelo Williams that backs him up. He ain’t bad either.
Many younger fans don’t know what the days were like before Roethlisberger was drafted by the Steelers. The horror! The horror! For a couple of decades the Steelers employed some of the most uninspiring quarterbacks in the league and it was all about relying on the running game and defense. This will definitely be another period of appreciation for having a Hall of Fame caliber quarterback.
Speaking of defense…Big Ben’s injury may end up being a pivotal moment in the growth of the team. One of the most impressive aspects of the team’s defeat of the Rams was how the defense stood tall when the offense stumbled. Now that the team’s star quarterback is out, look for the Steelers defense to grow up fast. If the defense can breach the top fifteen in rankings by the time Ben returns, the Steelers could be unstoppable.
Another key to the victory against the Rams was the successful field goal by Josh Scobee. With Vick at the reins, the Steelers will shift to the more traditional point-after approach (just one please) and field goals will more often be of the game winning variety. With Scobee hitting a fairly high pressure field goal in the Rams game, let’s hope we can count on him be clutch as usual for the remainder of the season. That would give us a top notch kicking game as the team’s phenom punter Jordan Berry may end up winning Rookie of The Year for the Steelers.
You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet
Following a disappointing preseason many fans are thrilled the team is 2-1 at this point in the year. However; the reality is that the Steelers lost a critical playoff-ramification game to the New England Patriots and gathered their two wins from two NFC teams with poor offenses. This upcoming game against the reeling Baltimore Ravens will be one of the most critical games they play this year. With the Cincinnati Bengals soaring, the Steelers can’t afford to lose this division game and AFC matchup at home. Of course…there is great joy the additional pleasure of hammering a nail in the Ravens 2015 coffin.