In a revealing feature written by Post-Gazette reporter Ed Bouchette, Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger said emphatically (Bouchette's word) he will not miss the birth of his son, who is expected to be born sometime during the regular season.
"There's no chance. I know some fans probably don't want to hear that, but there's no chance."
Certainly, there's a difference between missing a game due to a hangnail and the birth of a player's child. I can't say I'd be at all upset if that's the case.
Even if it is Pittsburgh's Week 13 game at Baltimore, scheduled for Dec. 2 (Bouchette suggests this is around when the baby is due, noting Roethlisberger did not confirm a due date), it seems within the boundaries of human decency to give the Steelers' two-time Super Bowl champion quarterback a pass for one game to be with his wife and new child.
And frankly, shame on his teammates if they are unable to play a game without him.
Not that his teammates are weighing in on this in any way. It's simply a rare opportunity for a team to look at a looming missed game for a player, and plan around it.
It'd be nice if all missed games were like that.
In Roethlisberger's case, assuming there are no injuries between now and then, he's backed up by one of the more competent back-ups in the league. Byron Leftwich has 49 career starts, with a 24-25 record for Jacksonville, Atlanta and Tampa Bay. In the non-mop-up games he's played in Pittsburgh, most notably, a 7-for-10 passing performance against Washington in Week 8 of the 2008 season, he's performed well.
Knowing there's at least a decent chance he may get a start in the second half of this season, Leftwich has it in the back of his mind for the next three months the most important role he'll play this year will be being mentally prepared to start that one game.
The Steelers are at Cleveland in Week 12 (Nov. 25) and host San Diego Week 14 (Dec. 9).
If he does have to miss any of these games, the team should be plenty prepared for his absence, even if it is removing arguably the best player the Steelers have.
Some things in life are more important, and one game missed that isn't due to injury in his otherwise phenomenal career should not become an issue. He's earned it.