There’s seemingly a rash of players that will not be in uniform during opening weekend for the 2010 NFL season. I’m not referring to those who will miss time due to injury. It’s the ones missing time due to just plain stupid decisions. These boneheaded moves led to deserved suspensions by Roger Goodell. Thus, several teams have to survive without key players for a portion of the season. It’s rather damaging in most instances. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the Steel City.
I think we’ve all read and heard about Ben Roethlisberger’s multiple shenanigans, including the ones that happened this past off-season no more than 100 miles from my house in Georgia. Bleacher Fan has spent a couple of arguments tackling the Big Ben topic, so I am going to take a swing at it as well, but look at everything from a different angle.
Roethlisberger’s credentials speak for themselves. He’s a two-time Super Bowl champion. Very few question the quarterback he has developed into. But without him, the Steelers become an extremely different team. Why do I say that? Just look at the guy who takes over while Ben is out.
I was a big fan of Byron Leftwich… with the operative word being “WAS.” I mean, who couldn’t root for the guy after seeing him dominate in college at Marshall. We’ve all seen the highlight of him being carried down the field while being injured. I even briefly mentioned Leftwich in Monday’s Jack Del Rio column about how he re-energized the Jaguar franchise for a short period of time. That time is over. His time in Jacksonville turned sour quickly and he then had quick and unproductive stops in Atlanta, Pittsburgh, and Tampa. Opponents quickly realized he holds onto the ball too long and that if you can get any type of pressure on him, you will frustrate him.
Pittsburgh apparently thought enough of him to bring him back to bridge the gap to Roethlisberger’s return. Keep in mind, though, that Leftwich is coming off a season in which he missed the last part of the season due to an elbow injury. Take a look at the Steelers schedule through the first six games. Notice that the schedule isn’t all that difficult. A season opening home game with the Falcons, followed by a home game with division rival Baltimore, are the difficult games in the first six. But then the schedule gets increasingly difficult as the season progresses. We really have no idea what kind of shape Roethlisberger will be in and how far behind he will be. Can he just jump right in during the middle of the season and be the Big Ben of old? There are so many questions and so many lingering doubts… doubts that Steelers fans aren’t used to.
There’s no question the Steelers are being affected the most by a suspension. The drop-off from Roethlisberger to Leftwich is a lengthy one. Steelers’ fans can only hope that Rashard Mendenhall has a strong first part of the season , and that the defense shows marked improvement. Otherwise, it’s going to be a long season at Heinz Field.