I don't claim to be Carnac. I've never owned a crystal ball, nor do I have tarot cards or a ouija board. The supernatural experiences I've had in my life number zero.
So, as I begin to lay out my thoughts on how the 2016 Pittsburgh Steelers will do, please don't accuse me of any of the above.
Save your name calling, slings and arrows for something much simpler like Captain Obvious.
This much is simple, and it's never going to change until a guy named Roethlisberger isn't the starting quarterback for your beloved Pittsburgh Steelers.
Any amount of success this team is going to have will always hinge on a variety of factors. That can be said about any team in any sport at the beginning of a new year. But for the Steelers to win, win often and go deep into January, it's very clear that without the services of a healthy No. 7, you can pretty much write off any playoff run.
To list the accomplishments of Ben Roethlisberger for historical purposes isn't necessary. His play entering his 13th NFL season is well documented, but it goes without saying that his play, his success, his accuracy and most important, his health is the key to a 10-11 win season, a home playoff game and a deep run that could end at NRG Stadium in Houston.
Not having the services of Le'Veon Bell for the first three games hurts. Learning to put down the bong would be smart at this stage of his career, but I'm not trying to pass some sort of social judgement on the kid. That's a topic for another day.
Having the league's premier wide receiver is nice. It helps to offset the loss of Bell knowing you have a game-changing player like Antonio Brown who can catch any pass at any range on the field and change the course of play in a matter of seconds. A healthy Ben could equal the first 2,000 yard receiving season in NFL history this season. It's a goal for Brown and the only way to see it come to fruitions is through the arm of a guy like Roethlisberger who must be upright to make this possible.
Speaking of upright, the offensive line holds the cards to this hand. With a healthy Maurkice Pouncey to anchor the line, it's a good start. Having missed 31 of the past 48 regular season games due to injury make him a slight question mark that will be closely monitored by head coach Mike Tomlin and his staff. When you add veterans like David DeCastro, Ramon Foster and Marcus Gilbert to the mix, Ben should get the protection he needs.
Three additional names that need to be contributing factors in this complex equation include Markus Wheaton, Sammie Coates and Jesse James. The first two will get plenty of one-on-one coverage with Brown wreaking havoc down field on opponent's secondaries. Beating their guy for Ben will only make this engine run hotter than normal. James just needs to be average. He's replacing Heath Miller. He doesn't have to be Heath, just be good enough to have an impact when he is called upon.
I, for one, feel this will be a historic season for Roethlisberger. If anything is certain, it's that Ben can get it done when needed. His size makes him hard to bring down. His age gives him the wisdom of 12 previous campaigns to rely on for experience. It's these battles and big games you can't measure when it's crunch time. His poise in the pocket and out of it when that breaks down make him, along with the Packers Aaron Rodgers, almost impossible to defend against.
So please be gentle. I'm not reinventing the wheel here. I'm not breaking any real news. I'm just keeping it simple. To win the AFC North. To go deep into the playoffs. To book passage to Super Bowl LI, it's a fairly simple plan. Give Ben Roethlisberger the ball and some time to throw. The rest should fall into place. 11-5 & another AFC North title await this team if the above comes to pass.
John Phillips is the author of this article. He has covered sports professionally for 25 years, much of it in Pittsburgh. You can follow JP on the Twitter @PGHJohnPhillips