The Pittsburgh Steelers have been bitten by the injury bug, again. Ben Roethlisberger was forced to exit Sunday's game against the Raiders with a mid-foot sprain. Upon further diagnosis, the Steelers were relieved to find out that the condition wasn't a Lisfranc injury. The time is now for Landry Jones and the Steelers. No more excuses. Win with the players available. Play like the postseason is tomorrow.
The Steelers may have dodged a bullet with Roethlisberger. The franchise signal caller had just returned from an MCL sprain that saw him miss four weeks. His early return is a testament to his strength and desire to help the Steel City Crew. During his absence, the Steelers went 2-2 and remained in the AFC North race.
When will Big Ben be available to play again? The timetable is confusing. Reports by ESPN, say that he will be gone a few weeks. Then there's the input from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that says he'll be ready for the Steelers by the Seattle game. Either way, it's a window of around 20 days. While it's possible to return to activity, Roethlisberger will still have to be careful on the foot. It will still be tender and susceptible to further damage if the ligaments aren't healed. That's also the foot which has to support a banged up knee. The actual time frame is anywhere from a couple of weeks to a few months.
The Steelers will now have to depend on the arm and guidance of Landry Jones. This is familiar territory for Jones. He led the Steelers to victory over the Arizona Cardinals in Week 6, but lost to the Chiefs in Week 7. There can be no more letdowns. Each game is a playoff battle.
Going forward, the Steelers will have to remember who they are. They are an organization bred on toughness and endurance. True. It takes a franchise quarterback to oversee the operation of a finely-tuned offense. Steelers' offensive coordinator Todd Haley has admitted to scaling down the play book to accommodate Michael Vick. He also didn't give the checkered flag to Jones, during the Kansas City game.
With the mediocre play of the AFC, the Steelers could easily see a playoff berth at 8-8. But, that's not the vision. The goal is to right the ship and win the AFC North. That comes with confidence from coaches and players trusting each other.
"Ben is our franchise quarterback," receiver Antonio Brown said. "We live and die with him.... Hopefully he can be with us."
All is not lost because Roethlisberger is out. Ben and Brown are weapons that cause opposing teams to readjust game plans. Brown will have to learn Jones' way of finding him in blitz situations. He'll have to be patient and trusting. He'll have to discover that connection. Ben and Brown connected for 180 yards in the first half of the Steelers versus Raiders game. With Vick and Jones over four games, he had 235 total yards. Vick is once again an injury away from starting.
Mike Tomlin and Todd Haley are faced with a challenge. They must prepare the Steelers to win without the big guns. LeVeon Bell isn't coming back and Big Ben is questionable. That doesn't mean the games have to be in doubt, though.
Steelers pride is the lesson to learn from. Never say it's over until triple zeros are showing on the Levi Stadium scoreboard. The time to start is now.
[Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images]