Who knew, but there was a bigger loss than the one in Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Big Ben done, Steelers are done. And we have Mike Tomlin to blame for it.
Let’s face it, all dreams of going to the Super Bowl ended when Ben Roethlisberger hobbled out of an attempted sack from Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Jordan Phillips and threw an interception to safety Reshad Jones. The game was lost, but that pales in comparison to what Ron Cook of Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported late Sunday night, that Roethlisberger’s injury will require surgery to repair the torn meniscus in his left knee.
Can the Steelers still make the playoffs without Roethlisberger? Well, anything is possible and given how poorly the AFC North looked in week 6, those dreams are still alive. However, this was supposed to be the season where the team was supposed to play for playoff seeding, not crawl into a wild card berth. However, Tomlin and the team doctors need to reevaluate themselves.
First, the team doctors: how in the world do you let Roethlisberger go back out on the field when his left knee was clearly not healthy, not even a little bit? Given how poorly the Steelers offensive line blocked Sunday, it is a miracle that a torn meniscus was the only injury suffered by the quarterback.
No, rather this article is more about Mike Tomlin and his "physical practices". Yes, the quarterback wears a red jersey and doesn’t get hit in training camp or in-season practices. No one can blame Tomlin for Big Ben’s knee. However, the idea of physical practices are not working out for the Steelers. Not one bit.
One of the points of physical practices is to promote and teach better tackling. The Steelers have missed countless tackles this season. Sean Davis and Artie Burns have missed nearly 20 tackles combined. Safety Mike Mitchell is more physical when the play is over (and often times, when the play is at least 20-yards downfield), racking up unnecessary roughness penalties like nobody’s business.
The physical practices also promote better continuity and chemistry with the offensive line. Well, David DeCastro has been called for holding for what seems like every game this season and also has been getting beaten soundly in several games. Other offensive linemen have not been as sharp as anticipated.
The Steelers have suffered through a lot of injuries this season thus far. Roethlisberger himself made a point to discuss the tough and physical practices that might have contributed to the injuries. While the team has overcome some of those injuries, the Steelers are not going to be good enough to overcome this injury to Roethlisberger, who might only miss one game but no one is certain at this juncture.
The Steelers lack strong options at backup quarterback. Landry Jones lacks the ability and the confidence to win a football game at this level. Zack Mettenberger has the size and the arm to push the offense downfield, but his knowledge of the offense is limited at best. This situation is not going to change anytime soon but one thing that can change? The practices can be less physical, especially since the players (the ones on defense specifically) aren’t responding as Tomlin desires. Calling a timeout and screaming at them isn’t going to work here either. This has to stop because simply put, it is not working.