Ben Roethlisberger Injury: Steelers Will Struggle Without Elite QB Behind Center

Ian HanfordFeatured ColumnistNovember 14, 2012

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 12:  Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers rolls out to pass against the Kansas City Chiefs during the game on November 12, 2012 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Losing Ben Roethlisberger spells doom for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Judging by Big Ben's injury, it sounds like the Steelers better prepare for the worst. Here's what Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter Ed Bouchette had to say:

#Steelers Ben Roethlisberger has a rare rib injury that could kill him by pressing against his aorta. Too big risk. Has to wait until heals

— Ed Bouchette (@EdBouchette) November 14, 2012

I'm not a doctor, and I haven't stayed at a Holiday Inn in a very long time, but that doesn't sound like anything to mess with. The injury didn't look bad initially, but the result says otherwise.

Associated Press writer Will Graves (via Yahoo! Sports) reported on Wednesday that the signal-caller will not play Sunday night versus the Ravens as it is, but it seems almost certain that he will miss more time than that.

In that case, Pittsburgh better batten down the hatches. Baltimore's defense has struggled mightily this season, and the team's second-half schedule is relatively easy, but Byron Leftwich hasn't started an NFL game since 2009. That's a long time, especially for a marginal talent, to sit on the sidelines.

The Steelers still have one of the league's top defenses to lean on, but that could also change with Roethlisberger sidelined. Teams will focus solely on the run game now, putting the 21st-ranked rushing attack more at odds than it already was.

That's going to cut down on Pittsburgh's time of possession and put more pressure on the defense. The unit could still play at a high level, but the oldest defense in the league will be impacted more by fatigue than some other groups would be.

Pittsburgh's best asset on offense is its pass-catchers. Whether it be receivers like Mike Wallace or a tight end like Heath Miller, Todd Haley's attack has been moving the ball through the air. Much of that has to do with Roethlisberger's command and poise in the pocket.

Counting on Leftwich to deliver the same thing is wishful thinking. He was 7-of-14 as Roethlisberger's replacement Monday night, and he didn't look comfortable most of the night. Granted it was his first time seeing the field in a long time, but it's not like he's a rusty Hall of Fame-caliber veteran. He's average, at best.

Playing Baltimore twice in the next three weeks will be difficult without Big Ben leading the way. Defensive issues aside, Baltimore is still one of the AFC's best teams and one of the team's biggest rivals.

The Cleveland Browns and San Diego Chargers are in the upcoming slate as well, which should bode well, but this team could lose to anyone without Big Ben steering the ship. I mean, they almost lost to Kansas City with him and did lose to Oakland and Tennessee.

Making the playoffs isn't completely impossible without Roethlisberger, and maybe he'll return before that anyway, but the road just got more difficult.

The gravity of the injury certainly commands the utmost respect. Hopefully he recovers quickly for his sake and the team's. He's playing some of the best football of his career, and it's a shame to see him go down.