The Pittsburgh Steelers haven’t had much good fortune so far this year. They are preparing to enter the sixth game of the season sporting a 1-4 record and on their third different quarterback, not factoring in the fact that they already traded the quarterback that they entered the season with as the third on the depth chart.
After Ben Roethlisberger was put on the Reserve/Injured List with some sort of elbow injury that prevented him from continuing to play, second-year Mason Rudolph was thrown into the spotlight. Following a hit to the head, however, he is currently going through the concussion protocol and is unlikely to be able to start on Sunday.
That means the Steelers will turn to rookie undrafted free agent Devlin Hodges, who finished the game on Sunday when Rudolph exited. His teammates believe in him, but it’s obvious and acknowledged that him being in the lineup means the team is far from full strength.
They have been lucky in recent years to have Roethlisberger healthy for nearly entire seasons. This is by far the most significant in-season injury of his career, and the results are showing it. Even if most of their losses have been close, they still count as much as the blowout to the New England Patriots. But those in the locker room aren’t wallowing in misery.
“Adversity is to be expected”, running back James Conner told reporters earlier this week. “Even if we did have Ben still here, it wasn’t going to be a smooth ride either way. We know that there are going to be some tough games. So adversity is to be expected, and right now, with our record and our quarterback issue, we’ve just got to figure out a way to fight through it. nobody’s going to feel sorry for us. We don’t want anybody to. We’ve just got to go out there and keep playing football”.
It’s fair to say that expectations have very much been met and then some already this year, at least in the adversity department. The Steelers are off to their worst start since 2013 when they lost their first four games, but if they lose on Sunday, they will fall behind even that sorry year, in which they still finished at .500.
One thing of note going forward is that, while the team adjusts to the changes inflicted upon them without their approval, the schedule also lightens up. They have already been through arguably the toughest part of their schedule, with losses coming to the 6-0 Patriots, the 4-0 San Francisco 49ers, and the 4-1 Seattle Seahawks.
If they can weather the storm and turn the tide, believe it or not, they still have a chance of winning the division. The Baltimore Ravens lead at 3-2, and the Steelers will finish against them in the final game of the year. If they can win one more game than the Ravens up to that point, then they can control their fate, since Baltimore already has a division loss to the Cleveland Browns.