PITTSBURGH - OCTOBER 17: Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks on at the line of scrimage while playing the Cleveland Browns on October 17 2010 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
The Steelers have been fortunate enough to not be embroiled in a quarterback controversy since roughly the last quarter of Week 2 of the 2004 season.
QB Ben Roethlisberger has been unchallenged since then, giving the Steelers an advantage every team without it envies; a franchise passer.
This will prove to be the ultimate test to Roethlisberger's talent, character and leadership abilities.
Who Moved Ben's Cheese?
Some of you may know the famous book, "Who Moved My Cheese?" It discusses different personality types and how those people deal with change within the work place.
Not making the jump from Miami University to the NFL has Roethlisberger had to undergo an off-season with so much change. A new boss, so to speak, with an alleged new offense. Fortunately, he'll have many of the same weapons back. But without the proven feature running back, the Steelers offense could go in one of many directions.
Ultimately, though, it all leads through Roethlisberger. Because of that, the biggest question this season is how he'll handle what has changed, and perhaps more importantly, what hasn't.
What about his injuries?
Roethlisberger will always play the Tough Guy role. He clearly has a sense of pride in playing through pain, and he does his part to quietly remind people he's hurt. It's not that he wants sympathy, he wants the honor. Gutting out the second half in a loss at San Francisco last year is the kind of story a fan base will remember for quite some time.
What happened to him in the weeks that follow will as well.
He struggled to plant and throw, and his accuracy was diminished. Roethlisberger noted his age (turned 30 this off-season) and how he began working out earlier this year than he has in the past. He'll need to stay healthy if the Steelers' offense is to improve on a disappointing 2011.
Was his 2011 season one of his best?
Much like the Steelers, on paper, it looks like it was. It just didn't seem to be. He rightly earned a trip to the Pro Bowl, and he put together some great individual performances (vs. New England in Week 8, for example). But with a quarterback goes the offense, and Roethlisberger looked unsteady at times; something Steelers fans aren't used to.
No one will question his courage or will, but as romantic as those traits sound, they pale in comparison to physical health. He started alright out of the gate, accelerated greatly in the middle part of the year, and started to gradually decrease toward the end.
With the talent level of offenses the Steelers will play this year, Roethlisberger will have to find a way to generate more points if he hopes the Steelers will improve on their first round departure last season.
Why didn't the Steelers draft a back-up?
It's another way of saying 'with Roethlisberger, go the Steelers.' There were other holes to fill on the team, and perhaps they targeted someone, but no one they wanted fell to a spot they were in. They brought in a slew of young passers in the off-season and will give them a chance to compete for what would probably be the third-string spot behind veteran Charlie Batch.
When it comes down to it, if Roethlisberger is hurt, the Steelers offense won't be the same anyway. In many ways, it's a dime vs. 10 cents. Even if they draft a rookie, that doesn't mean that player will be able to compete now anyway, so in the meantime, why not give an undrafted guy or two a shot, on the cheap, and let him learn under Roethlisberger and Batch?