Steel City Underground

Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger
steelers.com

I'm well aware that some people were rubbed the wrong way when I wrote an article last week preceding the Steelers upcoming game with the Indianapolis Colts by asking if Ben Roethlisberger could be the team's weakest link. The concept wasn't anything new, as we run a weekly "weakest link" article ahead of each game to try and determine the one player a Steelers win, or loss could hinge upon.

With all of the criticism flung in Ben Roethlisberger's direction lately, i.e. comments about "not having it anymore" or being out of tune with his offense, the response to what I had written honestly surprised me. Here I am, looking up and down the roster for a player who needed to have a solid game in order for the Steelers to win. I've seen the team win giving up 400-plus passing yards on defense a week earlier, without one player on that side of the ball being a liability. I also saw the Steelers offense operate just fine without some of their linemen, Martavis Bryant on the bench, or leaving the focus of the passing game off of Antonio Brown.

So who was left? Would the game really hinge on whether or not Jesse James or Roosevelt Nix had a down game? What about special teams players like Chris Boswell or Jordan Berry? Neither has really put the Steelers in a hole like Josh Scobee did years before.

Therefore it was left to a player who appeared to be struggling at times this season: Big Ben.

For that comment, I received nothing short of death threats from Internet trolls and headline readers who failed to recognize I do this piece for every single game. Ben's the best ever! Where would the Steelers be without him?!

(Insert other various non-related remarks about Ben's greatness.)

I was asked (putting it lightly), how could that be? Ben has been nothing but amazing against the Colts in recent years; this season, the Colts are even worse than usual. Certainly, we'd rather have Ben under center than anyone else. How dare someone call our captain, a surefire Hall of Famer a "weak link"!

Well, even after his game in Indy, this hasn't exactly been Roethlisberger's best season.

This is why I felt, for one week (only) the Steelers needed Ben more than Ben needed the Steelers. I got roasted for it, but in the end, was I really wrong in my assessment?

Enter Sunday's slow start against the very "weak" Indianapolis Colts team Roethlisberger was supposed to light up following a bye week to rest. Ben completed only 7 of his 15 attempts for 72 yards, no touchdowns, and an interception.

That's good for a 33.2 quarterback rating. In other words, miserable. Bad. Awful.

The offense couldn't move the ball whatsoever, and it appeared, at least through two-quarters of football played, that Ben was, in fact, a weak link.

However, there's a reason the entire game is played, as Roethlisberger literally had a tale of two halves. Starting with the third quarter, Big Ben completed 12 of his 16 passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns with no turnovers.

To put that into terms of "weak links" Ben went from not generating any offense to leading his team to a come from behind victory.

Ben's second-half quarterback rating? 146.9, nearing a perfect 158.3.

Okay, we can maybe put an asterisks on some of the first half, with Antonio Brown missing a deep ball and Martavis Bryant not coming back to and fighting for another deep pass that was picked off. Regardless, some are going to criticize Ben for those throws as well, saying they aren't as accurate as they have been in the past; from one of the league's most accurate deep ball passers. Regardless, those are two plays aside from others that were pretty poor in the first half. Now we can see what Ben looks like "good" and "bad" all within the context of the same game: which is why he was chosen as the weak link in the first place.

When he does well, the Steelers do well. And he got them the victory. Now we just need some consistency (which is an overall issue with the 2017 edition of this team and not an indictment on Ben himself).

So there you have it in black and white folks. I understand that some people took offense to what I had said about the Steelers living and dying by Roethlisberger's play, but please do understand that the exercise was both functional and also factually based. I realize that some are big fans of Big Ben, and so I am (evidenced by the eight Roethlisberger jerseys in my closet!) But we also have to take a step back and be fairly critical of what makes this team tick.

That would be a Ben Roethlisberger on his "A" game; regardless of how you feel about the defense or Le'Veon Bell, the Steelers still operate best with a brilliant Big Ben.





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  1. Ed Freinstein says:

    Completely agree Joe. We are used to the Ben that played in the 2nd half. Too often this year he’s played like he did in the 1st half. We can win the division with 1st half Ben. We can win a championship with 2nd half Ben.

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