Word out of the South Slide is that Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was able to practice in a limited capacity on Thursday and is holding out hope that he can play Sunday at Heinz Field vs. the Cleveland Browns.
UPDATE from South Side: Williams full participant in practice, Ben limited; Shazier, Harrison, Thomas sat out
— DK Pittsburgh Sports (@DKPghSports) November 12, 2015
Per Dejan Kovacevic of DK on Pittsburgh Sports, Ben Roethlisberger practiced in a limited capacity. While news of Ben Roethlisberger practicing is by definition good, it also comes with a danger. Ben Roethlisberger clearly wants to play vs. the Cleveland Browns, and his desire is understandable.
- The Steelers are only one game above .500
- Pittsburgh is 0-2 in the AFC North
- The Steelers are 2-4 in the AFC
- The Cleveland Browns are the Steelers final home divisional game this season
All of those spell “Must Win” for the Pittsburgh Steelers. While Landry Jones closed out the Steelers games vs. the Cardinals and the Raiders with “saves,” to borrow a baseball analogy, he struggled in his first start vs. the Kansas City Chiefs. A healthy Roethlisberger gives the Steelers a better chance to win. That’s a no brainer. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin seemingly has a difficult decision to make.
- But it shouldn’t be hard at all.
The Steelers should not play Ben Roethlisberger vs the Browns unless he is absolutely 100% healthy.
Steelers, Tomlin, Roethlisberger, Have Seen this Movie Before
The Steelers situation is not at all unlike the one they faced in 2011. Ben Roethlisberger injured his ankle in a Thursday night game vs. the Browns. Roethlisberger stayed in the game and put on a performance that was nothing short of heroic. After the game Roethlisberger vowed to play in the Steelers upcoming game at Candlestick Park vs. the 49ers.
Everyone remembers that game as the game that prompted Roger Goodell to suspend James Harrison. But the more important news coming out of the game was the choice Mike Tomlin had to make at quarterback.
- Mike Tomlin opted to play Ben Roethlisberger.
Even when it was clear that Roethlisberger was nowhere near 100%, he kept Roethlisberger in the game, despite having Charlie Batch in the bullpen. Given Batch’s rustiness in coming off the bench at times, Tomlin’s decision to start Roethlisberger was understandable. But Ben Roethlisberger was hurt so badly that he could not even make it back to the line of scrimmage after long completions during the hurry up offense.
- The San Francisco 49ers beat the Steelers 20-3 that night.
Worse yet, Ben Roethlisberger was sacked 3 times and threw 3 interceptions. Tomlin started Batch as the Steelers shut out the St. Louis Rams the following week. Ben Roethlisberger returned for the Steelers 2011 season finale vs. the Browns, and then for the playoff loss at Denver.
- But Roethlisberger clearly wasn’t the same quarterback.
Fans remember many things about the playoff loss to Tim Tebow, but Mike Wallace dropping a sure touchdown pass is one of them. While that added fuel to the anti-Wallace bandwagon, the truth is Roethlisberger couldn’t deliver on that pass because he was playing hurt.
- The Steelers resigned Ben Roethlisberger to an 108 million dollar contract this off season.
It was the right move for all parties involved. All signs indicate that the Steelers have the nucleus of players around Roethlisberger on both offense and defense to make a serious Super Bowl run in 2016 and perhaps that window extends into 2017. But none of it will matter much if Ben Roethlisberger is too injured to play.
The good news is that Ben Roethlisberger seems to be aware of his limitations, as he told Pittsburgh Tribune Review Reporter Mark Kaboly “If I can’t do that, there is no need to be out there.” That’s good news, but not nearly as good as what he told Kaboly next, when he refused to lay odds on his playing:
If I am feeling good enough and if coach determines I am well enough to be out there Sunday, then that’s the goal. I can’t give you a percentage because my percentage is probably different than his percentage.
While it’s impossible to read tea leaves here, it at least seems like Mike Tomlin is taking a more cautious approach to keeping his starting quarterback healthy than he did in 2011. And if that’s a welcome sign.
Let’s repeat it for prosperity: the Pittsburgh Steelers should not play Ben Roethlisberger vs the Browns if there’s even a shadow of a doubt about his health and mobility.
Williams Practices Fully, Harrison, Shazier, Thomas Out
The Steelers did get some good news with no strings attached on the injury/practice front, as starting running back DeAngelo Williams practiced fully after missing the previous two days. William’s absence at practice highlighted the Steelers thin depth at running back, leaving only Jordan Todman and Isaiah Pead behind him.
All of the news was not good, however. James Harrison, Ryan Shazier and Shamarko Thomas all missed practice, and will presumably not play vs. the Browns.