The Pittsburgh Steelers beat the St. Louis Rams, 12-6, on Sunday, but it came with a price. Ben Roethlisberger suffered a sprained MCL and bone bruise in his left knee and will miss four to six weeks.
The Steelers are planning on six.
Just how much will Roethlisberger’s absence change what Pittsburgh does offensively?
“Oh, it’s huge,” CBSSports.com NFL insider Ryan Wilson said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “I mean, it’s a really big deal – partly because Mike Vick’s only been there for a month. He replaced their other backup, Bruce Gradkowski, who got hurt. But also because Ben Roethlisberger – while we don’t often talk about him like a top-five quarterback – he is playing like a top-five quarterback, maybe even top three. And the irony is he had been better protected this year through two-and-a-half games than he had been in previous seasons. So the fact that he got hurt was sort of a freak accident and now they have to figure out how to move forward for four to six weeks.”
Roethlisberger, it is worth noting, has a reputation for being a quick healer, so perhaps he’ll only miss four weeks. The schedule, however, doesn’t do Pittsburgh any favors against Baltimore, at San Diego, against Arizona, at Kansas City and against Cincinnati.
“You have to find a way to win,” Wilson said. “Maybe go 2-2 is what you’re hoping for because the Bengals are 3-0 in that division and you don’t have very much wiggle room. And of course it seems like every time that Roethlisberger gets hurt, they face the Ravens – and that’s going to be the case on Thursday night.”
The AFC North has been an odd division thus far. The Steelers (2-1) have won two straight but will be without Roethlisberger, the Browns (1-2) are struggling yet again, the Bengals (3-0) look elite but questions remain about their postseason viability, and then there are the winless Ravens (0-3).
Wilson picked Baltimore to win the division.
“It’s already blown up in my face,” Wilson said, laughing. “I think one of the problem is they don’t have any offensive threats for Joe Flacco. They drafted Maxx Williams in the second round, the tight end. They drafted Breshad Perriman in the first round, the wide receiver. He’s been hurt for eight weeks now, so he hasn’t even stepped on the field. They have Steve Smith, who’s 36 at this point, so there’s no one for Joe Flacco to throw the ball to – and that’s sort of an issue when we’re in a passing league. Also the defense has lost Terrell Suggs, who is an ample part of what they do, and the secondary has struggled, much like they did a year ago.
“So there’s a bunch of things you can point to,” Wilson continued. “We know what Joe Flacco can do. We know what John Harbaugh can do. They’ve gone to the playoffs every year. But this seems to be the year where it’s all gone in the wrong direction and they’re not getting the breaks. We saw that again on Sunday against a Bengals team that should have lost that game, but the Ravens gave it away late and now they’re staring 0-3 in the face and they have to go to Pittsburgh and play in a tough environment. But it will be without Big Ben.”