Ben Roethlisberger’s assessment of the Steelers’ loss on Thanksgiving night in Baltimore included contemplating what might have been.
“It’s incredibly frustrating because you get so close,” Roethlisberger said.
He might just as easily have been describing the way the 2013 season has played out.
Just when it appeared the Steelers were on the verge of turning a corner and becoming a capable, dangerous team _ they were both against the Ravens despite the 22-20 setback _ another spate of injuries popped up to complicate the process.
Losing center Fernando Velasco for the season and left tackle Kelvin Beachum for Sunday’s Miami game has thrown yet another hurdle into the path of a team that’s tripped over too many already along the way to 5-7.
Over the last three weeks the Steelers have allowed one sack while scoring 37, 27 and 20 points. The no-huddle, quick-from-the-pocket approach they’ve embraced has
allowed them to protect the ball and possess it, and to take the pressure off of a defense that is much more effective when it is called upon less frequently.
They were a misfire or two from Roethlisberger, a dropped pass or two from Emmanuel Sanders and/or a botched field goal attempt from Shaun Suisham away from dominating a good Baltimore defense in a hostile environment.
Can the Steelers pick up where they left off with a new center and a new left tackle?
“We knew they have a great pass rush,” Roethlisberger had said in the immediate aftermath of the Ravens game. “They bring a lot of different blitzes. The plan was to get
the ball out (of the pocket quickly). You kind of have to pick your battles.
“We had a third-down conversion, a long one, to Antonio (Brown) kind of late (in the game), one to Heath (Miller) down the middle late. We still took our chances but we knew with a good pass rush we had to get the ball out.
“We took our chances, threw a couple deep balls. We had a couple holding penalties down the field on them.”
In other words they still gained yards on chunk plays, still demonstrated a combustible element even while playing safety-first offense.
It would have been a winning formula but for “a couple missed opportunities, throws that I need to make,” Roethlisberger said. “You never play a perfect game.”
They won’t play one the rest of the way, either.
But if the Steelers play as well in December as they played against the Ravens they’ll win enough games to make the playoffs.
The question is, can they?
Or, have they reached the saturation point of what they can absorb in terms of injuries up front?
With games remaining at Detroit, against New England and at Cincinnati the Ravens are going to lose again, probably at least twice.
The other 6-6 team ahead of the Steelers in the AFC playoff chase, the Dolphins, will be waiting for them on Sunday at Heinz Field.
A path to the postseason remains available to the Steelers.
We’ll find out starting on Sunday if they’re still capable of navigating it.
They’ve come and gone in a progression that almost defies description.
Twenty starting quarterbacks in 15 seasons since the Cleveland Browns’ franchise resurrection in 1999.
The Steelers get a look at No. 20, Jason Campbell, on Sunday.
Now three starts into his Browns tenure, Campbell has begun to look like a guy who isn’t doing a whole lot more in the position than keeping it warm for No. 21.
That guy’s coming sooner rather than later in Cleveland.
In the meantime, some historical perspective:
Browns QBs through the years: Tim Couch, Ty Detmer (1999); Couch, Doug Pederson, Spergon Wynn (2000); Couch (2001); Couch, Kelly Holcomb (2002); Holcomb, Couch (2003); Jeff Garcia, Luke McCown, Holcomb (2004); Trent Dilfer, Charlie Frye (2005); Frye, Derek Anderson (2006); Anderson, Frye (2007); Anderson, Ken Dorsey, Brady Quinn, Bruce Gradkowski (2008); Quinn, Anderson (2009); Colt McCoy, Jake Delhomme, Seneca Wallace (2010); McCoy, Wallace (2011); Brandon Weeden, Thad Lewis (2012); Weeden, Brian Hoyer, Campbell (2013).
Browns QBs by wins: Couch 22, Anderson 16, McCoy 6, Frye 6, Weeden 5, Holcomb 4, Dilfer 4, Hoyer 3, Garcia 3, Quinn 3, Delhomme 2, Wallace 1, Pederson 1, Campbell 1, Detmer 0, McCown 0, Dorsey 0, Gradkowski 0, Wynn 0, Lewis 0.
Browns QBs by winning percentage: Hoyer 3-0, 1.000; Delhomme 2-2, .500; Anderson 16-18, .471; Couch 22-37, .373; Dilfer 4-7, .364; Campbell 1-2, .333; Frye 6-13, .316; Holcomb 4-9, .308; Garcia 3-7, .300; McCoy 6-15, .286; Weeden 5-14, .263; Quinn 3-9, .250; Wallace 1-6, .143; Pederson 1-7, .125; Wynn 0-1, .000; Lewis 0-1,
.000; Gradkowski 0-1, .000; Detmer 0-2, .000; Dorsey 0-3, .000; McCown 0-4, .000.
Ben Roethlisberger has been a bit of a drama queen at times in his career.
Now, suddenly, he’s become a drama magnet.
Doesn’t the NFL Network have anything else to talk about?
Twice in five days reports have been broadcast that question the long-term viability of Roethlisberger’s relationship with the Steelers.
In response, Roethlisberger can’t state his case that he would like nothing more than to play his entire career with the Steelers faster or more adamantly.
The Steelers had nothing to say on the subject today, choosing instead to stand on the statement made by Art Rooney II on Sunday:
“Contrary to erroneous reports, the Pittsburgh Steelers have not explored trading quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and have no plans to do so.”
I have no doubt what’s being said on the NFL Network regarding Roethlisberger has resulted from the working of sources rather than a desire to merely throw
something at the wall and see if it sticks.
Nobody’s making anything up just for the hell of it.
But I suspect the sources aren’t as plugged in as those doing the reporting believe.
That’s not to suggest there’s no chance Roethlisberger ever takes a snap in another uniform.
He’ll need a new contract soon and those are complicated deals in the NFL these days.
And even Wayne Gretzky got traded.
So did Peyton Manning.
But I’m convinced of this much:
No. 1 _ Roethlisberger is sincere in his desire to retire with the Steelers.
And No. 2 _ The Steelers fully appreciate the value of a franchise quarterback and what the franchise quarterback currently in their employ means to the franchise.
A lot can still happen between now and then end of the season.
As you watch it all unfold remember that the Steelers have been operating for some time now with the idea of doing what needs to be done (drafting offensive linemen, changing offensive coordinators, drafting a running back, etc.) to extend Roethlisberger’s career in Pittsburgh as long as possible.
And in the event you doubt what Steelers players think about their franchise quarterback, consider what Brett Keisel had to say on the subject today:
“We love Ben. We know why we have two (Super Bowl) rings, why we have two (additional) trophies upstairs. He is a big part of that.
“One reason why we feel like we’ve always got a shot is because we have a great franchise quarterback. A lot of teams can’t say that. A lot of teams probably want that.
“Who knows how it got started? I don’t think it was Ben. I don’t think it was anybody in this building. A lot of us just kind of ignore it, really.
“When you think of Ben Roethlisberger you think
of the Pittsburgh Steelers. I think it’ll always be that way."