SAN FRANCISCO, CA - DECEMBER 19: Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers reacts after a play during their loss to the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park on December 19, 2011 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Multiple sources are reporting Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger will likely sit out Week 16 Saturday against St. Louis, and possibly Week 17 at Cleveland as well - due to the ankle injury he sustained in Week 14.
Roethlisberger threw three interceptions and fumbled once in Pittsburgh's 20-3 loss at San Francisco in Week 15. He never looked comfortable, and made some poor throws, while missing others.
The decision to sit him now, after the Steelers clinched a playoff berth despite the loss, makes sense. As astute reader Akshay R pointed out, the Steelers have sewn up the 5th seed already, meaning they can lose their last two games and claim the top wild card spot in the playoffs.
The 5th seed currently would put them in Denver for the first round.
Winning out and a Baltimore loss, though, is the Steelers real motivation now. Pittsburgh can wrap up the AFC North with wins over Cleveland and St. Louis, and a Ravens loss vs. Cleveland or at Cincinnati. Couple in a New England loss, and they'd have the top seed they lost out on having by the loss in Week 15.
Would Roethlisberger play in a Week 17 game if a win meant a division championship? It's hard to say he wouldn't, especially considering many sources said he played Monday at San Francisco because Baltimore lost the day before it.
It may not be all about Pittsburgh's offense anyway. The Steelers defense has played very well down the stretch, and the 20 points allowed to San Francisco - the highest total given up since a Week 10 win at Cincinnati - was caused largely by turnovers and short field situations.