The Steelers' Expendable quarterback position faces important challenges against Ravens

Justin K. Aller

The Next Man Up philosophy permeates the entire Steelers roster right now, with the quarterback position leading the Expendables mentality heading into a critical Week 11 match-up against Baltimore.

The Steelers know a thing or two about injuries. Fans could form an executive committee of five people and spend a weekend before deciding on which position has been hit the hardest by the wrath of random injuries. The vote would probably be split, too.

Heading into a Week 11 showdown with division rival Baltimore, the position clearly most affected is the quarterback spot. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will be out an indefinite (but likely a few weeks) period of time, thrusting Byron Leftwich into the starting lineup.

Leftwich will need to play inside the offensive game plan, which will be roughly similar to what it would have been if Roethlisberger was healthy - heavy doses of the running game mixed in with precision passing aimed at the safeties in coverage.

But it goes beyond just Roethlisberger and his rare rib injury.

While Week 11 appears to be the first in quite a while where Rashard Mendenhall, Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer are all healthy, the trio has been rotated around due to a variety of injuries for both players. Instability hasn't been a major issue, although Mendenhall - the top back of the group - has been held out for a knee injury suffered at the end of last season as well as an Achilles injury he suffered in his Week 6 game against Tennessee.

The wide receiver group recently threw its hat into the ring of the conversation of who The Expendables on the Steelers are. Antonio Brown missed the Steelers' Week 10 game against Kansas City with a high ankle sprain he suffered in Pittsburgh's 24-20 win over the New York Giants in Week 9. The group suddenly looked less explosive and dynamic than it had when it was arguably the most talented group on the team.

Let's not forget the offensive line, which, at least through Week 10, had been on a hot streak since the injury of right tackle Marcus Gilbert thrust rookie Mike Adams into the starting lineup. Rookie David DeCastro was the team's original right guard heading into the year, but a knee injury suffered in the preseason put him on the injured reserve recall list, and it doesn't appear he'll be making it back on the field any time soon.

It's not just about in-season injuries, either. Left tackle Max Starks, nose tackle Casey Hampton and outside linebacker James Harrison all had offseason knee surgeries (as did Mendenhall) and have, for better or worse, been playing themselves back into shape as the season has progressed.


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