Steelers Foolish to Start Ben Roethlisberger Against the Chargers

Chris Trapasso@ChrisTrapassoAnalyst IDecember 6, 2012

BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 02: Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers walks through the tunnel before playing the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on December 2, 2012 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Pittsburgh Steelers won, 23-20. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Rejoice, Pittsburgh Steelers fans, for Ben Roethlisberger is back. 

Thursday, head coach Mike Tomlin named Big Ben the starter for the team's Week 14 battle against the San Diego Chargersaccording to

I don't blame the Steelers faithful for breathing a collective sigh of relief after experiencing life without their franchise quarterback over the last three weeks. That said, the excitement needs to be tempered. 

Pittsburgh's coaching staff is making a foolish decision regarding their best player at the game's most vital position. Tomlin reportedly said the following regarding his quarterback's current condition:

[Roethlisberger] has been above the line in all areas. I am extremely comfortable with his ability to work the field both vertically and horizontally. He has great velocity on his ball. We're ready to go."

He also added, "Really, the only question we can't answer is taking a hit."

Big Ben isn't dealing with a sore hamstring. He suffered serious injuries to his shoulder and ribs against the Kansas City Chiefs. One hit, one sack or one awkward fall and Roethlisberger could re-aggravate the injury and be out indefinitely. 

Technically, every player is always one play away from an injury, but is it crazy to think that Roethlisberger is more at-risk than his teammates who aren't coming off an injury? 

The Steelers are in possession of the final playoff spot at 7-5 and are in must-win mode. Desperate times call for desperate measures, right? 

Technically, yes, but the Steelers aren't actually desperate.

Their Week 13 win over the Baltimore Ravens afforded them another week to rest its star signal-caller, and the Steelers should absolutely take advantage of this luxury.

Let's not overcomplicate the scenario. 

If the Steelers can play with, and ultimately beat, the Ravens in Baltimore with Charlie Batch under center, why wouldn't they be able to handle the San Diego Chargers—a team that can't get out of its own way—at home? 

Bleacher Report's resident thinking man Scott Kacsmar provided an insightful and relevant point in a recent column:

(Philip) Rivers has failed to lead the Chargers to a single point on the last 23 drives he has had in the fourth quarter and overtime when tied or trailing by one score. That goes back to Halloween 2011. Instead, Rivers has 12 turnovers on those 23 drives.

Even if Pittsburgh feels threatened by San Diego, what's to say that the Chargers will be able to close out the Steelers in the fourth quarter? 

In the end, I'm no psychic. Roethlisberger could remain unscathed for the remainder of the season. Heck, he could lead the Steelers on another deep run through the postseason. 

But remember, we're less than a month removed from when ESPN's Adam Schefter tweeted this bit of information from Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

While focus is on Ben Roethlisberger's shoulder, greater concern is his injured rib. Roethlisberger's rib injury is rare and dangerous.

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) November 14, 2012

Should Tomlin be condemned for starting Roethlisberger this week?

Probably not. 

Is he making a short-sighted decision for a game in which Roethlisberger probably isn't needed?