When Pittsburgh Steelers star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had to leave Monday night's game against the now 1-8 Kansas City Chiefs, it was thought to only be because of a shoulder injury. At first glance, the injury could have been as little as a sprain and could have meant only two or three weeks of recovery time.
When it was discovered that he also suffered a rib injury—and a dangerous one at that—the game changed. Big Ben has a dislocated rib near his aorta and his heart, a rare injury that means he cannot risk taking any hits until he heals.
With this dangerous injury, it is possible that Big Ben will miss the rest of the season. That would mean the 6-3 Steelers—tied with the Indianapolis Colts for the two AFC wild-card spots—do not have such an easy road to the playoffs. The Steelers have the daunting task of having to play their arch-rival Baltimore Ravens twice in the next three weeks. Most likely Roethlisberger will miss both of those games.
Former star wide receiver and four-time Pro-Bowler for the Steelers Hines Ward does not think his former team can win those games (according to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette):
— Ed Bouchette (@EdBouchette) November 15, 2012
Ward said of how the rivalry games will play out:
Not very well for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Going out there, they’ve got to have Ben on the field. One thing about him, to be able to extend plays, get outside the pocket, that’s when he’s at his best. ... When you lose that element of the game and put Byron in there, a guy who is less mobile, now everybody can just pin back their ears and go with the pass rush and the blitz and they change their dynamics of play calling.
Prior to the injury news, the Steelers had every reason to feel good about their playoff chances. They and the Colts are a full two games ahead of the rest of the pack. Yet with backup quarterback Byron Leftwich playing, they might not be quite as confident.
The Steelers, however, do not need to win every game. The way the AFC is playing out, 8-8 is probably the mark to make the playoffs, maybe even 7-9. Pittsburgh would need to finish 2-5 to reach .500 on the season.
There is also the possibility that the Steelers will step up and handle the situation better than Ward fears.
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