FanPost

Defending the Decision to Start Big Ben


So there's been a mountain of second guessing and hindsight experts today, but I maintain first and foremost that I trust the decision making of Mike Tomlin and his staff. I trust him to make the decision that gives this team the best chance to win a given game and succeed months and years into the future. I trust him to put the most capable 22 players on the field and do his absolute best to lead those 22 men to victory. Obviously he came up short last night against a very good defense and the main question today is whether or not a hobbled Ben Roethlisberger should have started the game. Since the only two other options on the roster are Charlie Batch and Dennis Dixon (the "we need to upgrade the backup QB spot is a discussion for another day") the question is simply, could Batch or Dixon have outperformed Big Ben last night? I contend that niether of these guys could have done any better than #7 under the circumstances and here's why.....

First, I think it the Steelers' coaching staff built a gameplan around the pass becuase they knew they'd have an awfully tough time moving the ball on the ground against the #1 ranked rush defense in the league. If this was a game that could have been won on the ground, their QB decision might have been different, but this was a game that had to be won through the air.

Secondly, Ben had a fairly decent statistical game outside of the turnovers (and yes I know that's a huge, huge part). But if we can focus on the numbers for a second, Ben was 25 of 44 (56.8%) for 330 yards (7.5 per attempt). Now since Batch seems like most people's #2 choice, I started wondering when was the last time he put up any kind of numbers similar to this (ie when was the last time he won a game "through the air). Amazingly, the last time Batch attempted even half as many attempts as Ben had in this game was December 30, 2007 (16 of 31 for 216) in a game where the Steelers rested most of their starters in the season finale against the Ravens. What about the last time Batch had a 300 yard game? That would be a full decade ago, November 18, 2001 (36 of 62 for 436) in what I would imagine was a wildly entertaining 38-45 loss. And since I'm sure some people are about to jump through the computer screen yelling "what about the turnovers?!?!?," it's worth noting that in the past four seasons he's thrown more picks than touchdowns and also fumbled twice (although both were recovered). So armed with that information, are you still prepared to say that Charlie Batch is capable of facing a good defense and winning a game based on his right arm? I'm certainly not.

Oh and what about Dennis Dixon? Is he capable of winning a game through the air? Well if he is, we've certainly never seen it at the pro level. His career highs for attempts is 32 and yards is 254 and those are highs for a season, not a single game. His career turnover to TD ratio is 3:1 (or 3:2 if you count a rushing TD). So again, are you prepared to say that Dennis Dixon is capable of facing a good defense and winning a game through the air? Again, I certainly am not.

Now that I've said all of that, I'll close with this....I don't think starting Ben against this defense was the ideal scenerio to pull out a victory, but considering the circumstances and personel avaliable, he gave the best chance to win. Second guess and question our SB winning head coach if you must, but I will not join you.

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