The Steelers will officially be without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for all but six quarters of the 2019 regular season.
And that, right there, fully explains their 1-4 record, right?
On paper, it makes perfect sense. In fact, if the Steelers would have issued a press release at halftime of their Week 2 game against the Seahawks that echoed the opening line of this article, it would have been perfectly reasonable to expect a long, long season.
After all, isn’t that how it usually goes when a team loses its franchise quarterback— in this case, to season-ending elbow surgery? There aren’t many squads that rebound from such a blow to even finish respectable, let alone with a postseason berth.
In truth, there was still hope that Mason Rudolph would ride in on a white horse and make a little NFL history. But while there was hope, everyone had to temper their expectations just in-case a minor miracle didn’t take place before our very eyes.
Sadly, the worst fears have been realized, and here the Steelers sit with just one win so far on the season.
No Ben really does equal no chance. Maybe, but only if you haven’t been paying attention to the 2019 season.
You might say I’m being totally unreasonable for expecting a much better record after five weeks. And you would be right if we were still sitting around at halftime of that Week 2 game, and I didn’t witness all that I have over the past 15 quarters sans Roethlisberger.
While some teams around the NFL—the Dolphins, Bengals and Jets come to mind—clearly don’t have the talent and/or will to put up much of a fight in 2019, the Steelers apparently have had enough of something to not only remain competitive in their three-plus games without their star player, it could be argued that they should have won every single one of them.
Why do I say that? Because they actually had chances to defeat the Seahawks, 49ers and Ravens—they lost those three games by a combined nine points. And when it comes to San Francisco and Baltimore, the Steelers held late leads before royally screwing the pooch.
Obviously, it would be silly for me to sit here and write that Roethlisberger’s season-ending injury hasn’t greatly hindered Pittsburgh’s chances at success. I think it’s safe to say, had he been the beneficiary of those five takeaways in San Francisco, for example, the Steelers win that game going away. As for those two turnovers the Steelers defense came up with deep in Baltimore territory in what became a 26-23 overtime loss at Heinz Field on Sunday? With Roethlisberger at quarterback, the game probably doesn’t even make it to an extra period.
So, yes, Roethlisberger is the ultimate X-factor, but he’s not the sole reason for Pittsburgh’s failures in 2019. If we’re just going to approach the rest of the season with a “Golly gee, they don’t have their best player” attitude, why even play the rest of the games? Why write articles? Why do podcasts? Why even show up at Heinz Field to support the team?
If you’re a fan of the Steelers, you have every right to be angry at how they’ve let three close games get away this year. No, Roethlisberger wasn’t around to make a difference, but the games were still there for the taking.
You have every right to expect a receiver as talented as JuJu Smith-Schuster to come through with the football and the game in his hands. Same for James Conner, a Pro Bowl running back a season ago. You have every right to expect the defense to hold onto a lead in the fourth quarter—last I checked, Roethlisberger hasn’t played defense since that divisional round playoff game against the Colts many years ago.
I don’t know what’s going to happen next Sunday night, when Devlin Hodges will likely start in place of a concussed Rudolph (that’s right, the Steelers are probably going to have to rely on an undrafted free agent quarterback for at least a week), but if the Steelers lose a close game against the Chargers for reasons other than the play of Duck Dynasty, you have every reason to be upset.
Ben Roethlisberger isn’t the only Steelers player with a hand in the pile.