Here we go again…
We are coming up on our annual trip to Rust City and the finale to the 2011 regular season. A few weeks back, the Pittsburgh Steelers clinched at least a Wild Card spot when my local team, the Tennessee Titans, got an early start on their charity and goodwill in Indianapolis. Before taking the field that weekend, Pittsburgh ended up in the playoffs as no worse than the sixth seed in the AFC.
Cleveland, meanwhile, lost any chance at the playoffs when they put on orange helmets and called themselves the Browns back in 2002. As I mentioned in an earlier post, Cleveland’s primary goal every year seems to be to try and ruin our season. The last time they did so was in 2009 when they crushed our playoff hopes with a week 14 win at home. We made amends last year in week 17 but, dammit, why do they keep getting chances at the end of the season?
Pittsburgh has their eye on Baltimore, who hopefully stumble across the finish line with a loss to Cincinnati. With yet another gift from the boys in purple, Pittsburgh would take control of the AFC North and watch round one of the playoffs from their couches. But first, a win this Sunday is crucial or the Ratbirds/Bungles showdown doesn’t matter. The question is, is this ideal scenario enough to put Ben Roethlisberger back under center? Or a better question, do we need him on Sunday to win this football game?
Mike Tomlin said in this week’s presser that Charlie Batch’s performance last Saturday will have no impact on his decision to play Big Ben. I understand that the number one qualifier is Ben’s health, but after Chaz proved he can pilot a run-first offense to victory, how could his performance not play a role in deciding whether or not we risk #7? Especially when we’re playing the team that sprained broke injured his hoof in the first place? Karma aside, our ground game is back on track. Especially considering the run defense Cleveland will be fielding on Sunday. Resting Ben should ultimately come down to his ability to go, but if we can ride a run game averaging 124 yards per under Charity Chaz to victory, I would think that factors in to Tomcat’s decision. It better.
I’ve heard several pundits make the case of getting Ben some “playing time” before he has to suit-up for playoff football. This might be a personal opinion, but I don’t feel like a few weeks break from getting pounded into the turf is a bad thing. Ben has played 125 NFL games, surely he won’t forget how to play football if he doesn’t have the chance to throw a few passes this weekend. The only reason Ben needs time on the field is to see if the old Iron-hoof can hold up at full speed. If he is 100%, sure, get him a few snaps and sit him. But if he is going to use bad mechanics to hoist the ball off his non-stepping peg leg like he did against San Fran, he needs to ride pine all game.
Cleveland would love to rock the boat and watch us travel out West for the first round of the playoffs. However, I think it has been shown they don’t have the talent this season. The sense in the air is that Pouncer and Woodley will be back, and as far as I know the Ginger Dictator hasn’t dug up any reasons to suspend Harrison this week. If Ben tests out his brand new titanium plated super-reinforced boot for 15 minutes on Sunday, so be it. But I think we ride this one out with Chaz and see if Baltimore can lose to another garbage team on the road. After all, they do it so well.