After four games without Ben Roethlisberger, where the Steelers went 2-2, it is looking like he will return to action next Sunday against their rivals, and division leaders, the undefeated Cincinnati Bengals. In the first of three straight games to be played at Heinz Field, the Steelers held Ben out one more week so that he could be more physically prepared to deal with this critical three game stretch that awaits them. Until his injury, Ben had gotten off to the best start of his career, throwing for 912 yards and 4 touchdown passes. Sunday’s game against the Bengals will be the first time, in 2105, that the Steelers will have all of its offensive weapons on the field together. As great as LeVeon Bell has been without the presence of a passing game, he will be that much more dangerous with the return of Ben.
The two players that will benefit the most are Antonio Brown and Heath Miller. During the first three games, Miller caught 12 passes for 116 yards and a touchdown. While he hasn’t been one of Ben’s main weapons in recent years, he is still a valuable safety net. In the four games that Ben has been out, he has only caught 5 balls for 52 yards. 3 receptions and 46 of those yards came in the San Diego game. Other than that, Heath Miller has been almost non-existent within the offense. The guy who will benefit the most, and who has had the roughest time getting involved in an offense without Ben, has been Antonio Brown. During the first three games with Ben under center, AB caught 29 balls for 436 yards and 2 touchdowns, and was off to record breaking pace. During Ben’s absence, his production fell to just 17 receptions for 235 yards and no scores. Brown, who was begging for the ball, went from averaging right at 10 receptions per game with Ben, to just over 4 without him. Although he caught alot of flack for voicing his concerns over Vick’s apparent lack of trust in him, Brown was coming from the position of, I can’t help my team if I can’t get the ball. That problem should be solved starting Sunday.
The biggest surprise this season had been the play of Keith Butler’s defense. While they have been giving up chunks of yardage, they have also been creating more turnovers and sacking the quarterback alot more often than they have in recent years. The silver lining in going 2-2 during Ben’s absence, is that the Steelers could have, and perhaps should have, won all four of them. Playing in such tightly contested games put alot of pressure on the young defense, and left little margin for error. Even though they came up big on quite a few occasions, it was evident the defense started wearing down with the amount of time that they spent on the field. Two things that should benefit the defense with the return of Ben, are, they should have more opportunities to play with a lead, and two, they should be on the field a lot less now. There’s no doubt in my mind, that when the Steelers defense is fresh, they can be as physical and dangerous as any in league, especially with the pending return of Stephon Tuitt.
At the start of the season, Phil Simms made a comment, something to the effect that “Anyone could play quarterback in Pittsburgh’s offense with all the weapons they have.” That could be taken as a veiled insult of Ben, and after these past four games, it showed just how valuable Ben truly is. Sure Phil, anyone can line up under center in the Steelers offense, but nobody can run it Like Ben Roethlisberger does. If Ben had never gotten injured, it’s very likely that the Steelers could be 6-1. With his return, the Steelers should become legitimate Super Bowl contenders, especially if the defense keeps playing the way they have been. While Michael Vick and Landry Jones did the best they could to the fort down while Ben was out, there is only one Ben Roethlisberger. He is the man who drives the ship and knows how to use all of his weapons to near perfection. Welcome back Ben, although it’s five games late in coming, Steelernation can’t wait to see you become the sixteenth quarterback in NFL history to throw for 40,000 yards, while knock the Bengals from the ranks of the undefeated.