As a former football player who played through seven shoulder separations before being forced to have surgery, I generally have a ton of respect for tough guys, especially a quarterback like Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roehtlisberger whose grit and determination have already earned him two Super Bowl rings and a third appearance just last year. It’s usually admirable when a guy puts his own health at risk to help the team succeed. This would not be one of those occasions.
Big Ben has declared that, if the pain in his left ankle is tolerable, he will give it a go in this week’s regular season finale against the Cleveland Browns. A win could propel the Steelers as high as the number one seed in the AFC playoffs, though they would need a lot of help just to rise to the number two seed, gain home field advantage for at least one game, and earn the second first round bye. There’s a lot at stake, I get that, but this is one of those times where the head coach has to pull rank on his player and sit the quarterback.
Home field and a bye, especially for a veteran team like Pittsburgh, could be valuable assets heading into a potential Super Bowl run, but what good are either if you don’t have a fully healthy Roethlisberger to lead the charge? The Browns are in last place in the division and seemingly has nothing to play for, so what’s to stop an overzealous Cleveland defender from taking a cheap shot at Big Ben just to cripple the hated Steelers during their playoff run? It doesn’t even have to be a dirty play, just stepping the wrong way to avoid a sack could aggravate the injury.
Mike Tomlin should have the faith in the rest of his squad, and in veteran back up Charlie Batch, to get the road victory against the Browns and hope that the Bengals can knock off the Ravens. At the very least, Roethlisberger will have had at least one more week to get ready for what will likely need to be a repeat of 2005, when the 6th seeded Steelers won three road games on their way to another NFL championship.