Throughout his career, Ben Roethlisberger’s first game back from an injury doesn’t usually go too well, and the Baltimore Ravens are certainly hoping that trend continues. This isn’t just any first game back though, this one is against the Baltimore Ravens, and it represents a chance for the Steelers to take control of the AFC North by extending their lead over the Ravens to two games. It’s in high leverage games like this, against the Ravens, where Big Ben is usually at his best, and with most of his weapons returning for this game, he shouldn’t have to feel like he has to do it all. While quite a few of his games against the Ravens have been physical and painful, Ben has also had a few big games. In one half of a home prime time game in 2007, Ben was 13/16 for 207 yards, throwing 5 touchdowns passes in a 38-7 win, and in November of 2007, Ben threw for 340 yards and 6 touchdowns in a 43-23 win.
Ben’s lackluster performances when coming back from injuries in the past, can almost certainly be attributed to returning too soon. That remains a legitimate concern this time as well, but there are a few reasons to believe that Ben Roethlisberger will have a typical Big Ben type of game. A running back is a quarterback’s best friend in games like this, no offense to Antonio Brown, and they don’t come any better than LeVeon Bell. Besides having one of the best offensive lines in all football, there’s no better protection for a quarterback than a good running game, and nobody runs the ball like LeVeon Bell, who could also probably be a starting wide receiver on more than a couple of NFL teams. The more Ben hands the ball to number 26, the less the Baltimore defense will be able to inflict pain on him. The more yards Bell gains on the ground, the more focused Baltimore will be on stopping him, slowing that pass rush down.
Not only will Ben have Bell to help set up the air assault, but he’ll also have two of his targets back, primary deep threat Sammie Coates and Markus Wheaton. With Coates and Wheaton back in action, and Antonio Brown likely able to run free against single coverage, well you can do the math, 7 + 84 = 6. With the well timed bye-week, and the return of most of his weapons on the outside, Ben will have the additional luxury of lining up behind an offensive line that has returned to full strength and doesn’t have to worry about LB Elvis Dumervil, who is listed as out for the game, and will be facing a less than one hundred percent Terrell Suggs, who is listed as questionable with a biceps injury.
Ben has beaten much better Baltimore defenses with much less to work with. Today, Ben leads the most talented offense the Steelers have had against one of the more inferior Baltimore defenses in recent memory. This is still Baltimore versus Pittsburgh, and yes, the Ravens defense will no doubt step it up a notch, but Ben Roethlisberger is not the same quarterback he was, even a few years ago. He has transformed himself from being a fly by the seat of his pants, freewheeling gunslinger, into a cerebral assassin with the same ability to extend plays. Perhaps the biggest reason for expecting a Ben-like performance today is that the Ravens have won five out of the last six games. After last seasons sweep at the hands of the Ravens, look for Ben to methodically pick the Ravens apart before he puts, what amounts to be, the final dagger in their season. Ben may have had his issues coming back from injuries in the past, but don’t expect today to be one of those games. He may not throw 5 or 6 touchdown passes, but he will walk off with a win.