By Danny Cox
When Ben Roethlisberger went down with an injury last week, the faithful fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers held their collective breath. Just one series later, they were able to exhale as Big Ben returned to the field and took his rightful place for the rest of the game. Unfortunately, no one quite realized they wouldn’t see him play again for a couple of weeks.
Or is it six weeks?
Big Ben’s Tear
The torn meniscus in Roethlisberger’s left knee required surgery, and many think he’ll be on the sidelines for an extended period of time. He is, of course, optimistic that he’ll be back before too long. Actually, Roethlisberger believes he could be back on the field and starting at quarterback against the Baltimore Ravens on Nov. 6.
If that unexpected return were to happen, it would come right after a bye week for the Steelers and would have Big Ben missing just one game. The Steelers have already ruled him as out against the New England Patriots this week, and Landry Jones will step in as the starter. A two-weeks return from knee surgery isn’t totally out of the question, but it also isn’t reasonable.
Big Ben’s Iron Will May Not Be Enough To Get Him Back
“Doc says my knee looked good, but there still was some stuff in there from when I had my bone bruise last season in St. Louis,” said Roethlisberger. “He said that might keep me out a little longer than just a simple meniscus tear. Maybe an extra week or so. But there’s no way to put an exact timetable on it. It all depends on my pain and how I feel.”
In full reality, the Steelers quarterback could miss up to six weeks and a total of five games, including all those in November. Five games that could realistically see Pittsburgh go 1-5 and have their record at 5-7 by the time Roethlisberger is healthy enough to return. A 5-7 record entering December pretty much means you’re out of the playoffs.
With Landry Jones at the helm they are going to have to run the ball much better than they have so far this season.
The Steelers Need That Passing Game
In all six games so far in 2016, the Steelers have passed the ball more than 50 percent of the time. In Week 3 against the Philadelphia Eagles, they rushed the football a mere 10 times while passing 44 times and getting demolished 34-3 in the process.
With Le’Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams in the offensive backfield, one wouldn’t think that the Steelers have any trouble running the football and gaining substantial yardage with each touch. Six games into 2016, and neither Bell nor Williams have more than 275 yards each on the ground, and that just won’t work.
There has to be some sense of balance in the offense, more so now that Roethlisberger is going to miss at least two or three weeks—possibly double that. If the running game doesn’t get going for Pittsburgh, opposing defensive lines are going to tee off on Landry Jones while secondaries are going to have a field day waiting for him to make a mistake.