There was much debate for about two weeks as to whether or not the Pittsburgh Steelers would have quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for this game, and the speculation built up all the way to about 85 minutes or so before the ball was actually kicked off. Soon after the inactive list was announced, the team also declared Roethlisberger the starter.
But there is a good argument to be made that Landry Jones should have stayed in the starting lineup, even if Roethlisberger did manage to play well in the fourth quarter, throwing one touchdown pass and running for another, although that effort came only when the Steelers were already trailing by 21 points.
It should also be pointed out that in between those two touchdown drives in the fourth quarter was a third drive that ended in a turnover on downs, but which could have also ended in a touchdown when Roethlisberger put a long ball on the money to Sammie Coates in the end zone, who dropped it.
And to be sure, Roethlisberger deserves a great deal of credit for the grit that he displayed. The two sacks that he did end up taking he nearly avoided, one by throwing a blitzing cornerback across his back, only to be tagged by the ankle as he looked to scramble away.
His willingness to dive into the end zone with under a minute to play to score also put on full display the fight that he has in him, 21 days after tearing his meniscus. He avoided a number of hits and scrambled out of the pocket. He even fumbled a snap and still was able to pick up the ball, scramble out of the pocket, and make a nice throw.
But in between all that, and especially before much of that happened, there is no other way of putting it than simply to say that Roethlisberger played awful for long stretches of the game, with many arguing that the Steelers should seriously put Jones in early in the fourth quarter after the Ravens secured the 21-0 lead.
By my count, prior to the first touchdown drive, Roethlisberger was just nine for 21 passing for 61 yards and an interception. He threw for about 200 yards or more in the fourth quarter alone, finishing with 264 total passing yards, which just goes to illustrate how poorly he played before.
Of course, it didn’t help that the offense routinely put themselves in bad situations in terms of down and distance, attributable to a number of factors including penalties and the lack of a running game, which produced the necessity of attempting a lot of lower-percentage throws.
But overall, Roethlisberger was pretty bad early in the game, and while he may have thrown one interception, he had three other passes that could have been, with at least one that definitely should have been. The bottom line, even with the late-game boost, is that this was another poor game for him coming off an injury.