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An injured Ben Roethlisberger vs. an aged Charlie Batch as Steelers head into Week 13

If Roethlisberger is able to lift his arm above his head, he needs to play in Week 13 at Baltimore.

Matt Sullivan

There really isn't a point in dancing around the issue this week. The Steelers now-floundering playoff hopes don't appear to helped any by any quarterback without a newborn son named Ben Jr. starting.

It's simple; if Ben Roethlisberger is healthy, he starts.

So is he healthy? Or, does it even matter?

At stake is the Steelers' continuance of a free fall that's already put them at 6-5 on the season, and the risk of falling one game behind the Cincinnati Bengals for the final AFC Wild Card spot. They're currently leading the Bengals by virtue of the team's win over them in Week 7.

The Steelers play the Bengals in Week 16. That being said, Sitting Roethlisberger another week in an effort to let him be fully healed for a very winnable final four games - including the big one against Cincinnati - does hold some wisdom.

But counting chickens - or wins - before they hatch in the NFL isn't any smarter than it is in the real world. They cannot count on Roethlisberger returning to give them a guaranteed four-game winning streak to end the season. Those games are vs. San Diego (4-7), at Dallas (5-6), vs. Cincinnati (6-5) and vs. Cleveland (3-8).

A loss to Baltimore, regardless of who starts at quarterback, coupled with a Bengals win at San Diego would mean the Steelers would almost assuredly win out to qualify for the playoffs.

A Steelers loss at Baltimore would also give the Ravens (9-2) their second consecutive division championship.

These are all plenty of reasons to think Roethlisberger will force himself back on the field.

But should he? That's the question rolling through Steeler Nation right now as a once-promising 2012 season has spiraled into bitterness.