Should Steelers Bench Ben? - By Marc Simon
Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial
|By all accounts, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has tossed his hospital Johnnie aside once again and is rip-roaring ready to start Monday night's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. But whoa, hold on a minute.
Sure, Ben wants to play, and sure, the entire Steeler nation wants him to play. But is it right for the team, and in Ben's best interests to play him this week? The man had his appendix taken out less than two weeks ago. Laparoscopy or no, that's gotta hurt. Ben said, "I've thrown the last two days, nothing too outrageous. It feels pretty good, just a little bit (of soreness), not too bad." If tough guy Ben admits to a little bit of soreness, you know it's got to be more than a little bit.
Remember, Ben hasn't played any meaningful minutes since last year's Superbowl victory. And the heat will be on him next Monday night in more ways than one. The average nighttime temperature in Jacksonville this time of year is around 70 degrees. Plus it's bug-slappin' humid. Not the easiest conditions to adapt to, no matter how much you practice inside a heated bubble, like the Steelers do.
It's well documented that teams from the North do poorly in Florida in September, especially in the second halves of games. For example, last week, Dallas gained 173 yards in the first half. In the second, they gained just 118, of which 51 came on one play. You can bet the Jaguars will pull out all stops to see how much heat Ben can stomach. If you were playing against a quarterback with a sore tummy, wouldn't you?
It's not as if we don't have a viable alternative. Backup quarterback Charlie Batch played a terrific game in the opening night win against Miami. Except for his fumble at the goal line, his play was inspired. He showed good elusiveness and a nice passing touch, and he brought the team back from behind in the fourth quarter. In fact, if he doesn't fumble, and Ike Taylor doesn't drop a sure interception in the first half, the Steelers win that game going away.
The Bengals come to town in Week Three. Would it be a better strategy to let Ben heal up an extra week to get ready for what looks to be our toughest divisional rival, rather than throw him to the Jags? To my way of thinking, we need a 100% Ben a lot more against the Bengals than we do an 80% Ben against the Jaguars.
Steelers head Coach Bill Cowher has said a decision on whether Roethlisberger plays isn't likely until Friday or Saturday. Smart move. If Ben isn't up to snuff, no way will Cowher play him Monday night. Remember, it's just game number two in a long, long season. Yeah, every game counts. But AFC North games count more. Plus we need Ben a lot more in late December than we do in early September.