I was at a baseball game on Sunday when I got the alert that Ben Roethlisberger left the Steelers game against the Seahawks with an elbow injury. Afterwards, while enjoying a beverage made of fermented hops and barley at a local establishment, I got to see a video of the injury, prompting me to say aloud “that’s not good.” The friend I was with asked me what I was referring to. I scrolled back the video and told him to watch it and let me know the first thing he noticed. The friend, who enjoys sports, but would best be described as a casual fan, watched it several times before handing my phone back to me and saying “it doesn’t look like anyone touched him.”
Exactly. More than 7,000 in-game pass attempts had taken their toll.
James Conner also was lifted from the game, but is a different story. He tweaked his knee. He might miss a game, though he says he’s confident he’ll play on Sunday against the 49ers. Either way, however, 0-2, without your franchise quarterback, is a slim shot at making the playoffs.
Or is it?
The Mason Rudolph Bandwagon is Asking Steelers Fans to Make Reservations
From an offensive perspective, Pittsburgh scored more points with Mason Rudolph in the game than with Roethlisberger. If you’ve read any of my articles, you know my biggest knock on Big Ben is that the team isn’t as effective when he tries to take the entire offense on himself. Now, that’s not an option. Rudolph won’t be trying to guide the Steelers’ sleigh into the playoffs solely on the brightness of his nose. The Steelers have to be balanced. Use the run game more. When passing is needed, there’s still JuJu Smith-Schuster and Vance McDonald to throw to.
Maybe the biggest thing is that this injury gives Pittsburgh a pass in many ways. If the team does poorly, well, no one expects them to win without their star. If they do win and buck the odds to make the postseason following an 0-2 start, it’s a great feel good story and gets Mike Tomlin in Coach of the Year consideration.
Oh, wait. They still have to play defense, something the Steelers haven’t really done this season. Unless you have the offensive prowess of the Saints from a couple years ago, giving up 30.5 points a game isn’t a recipe for much winning.
Only 12 teams to start 0-2 have made the postseason in the last 28 years. I don’t see the Steelers becoming #13. More from the defensive side of the ball, I’m also highly doubting the potential for them to meet the over of their projected nine-win total. Instead of looking at it as a lost season, though, there’s potential to steer this in the direction of let’s try some new things and see what we have.
At this point, what is there to lose?
Steelers Week 3 Preview and Steelers Odds
Well, according to the sportsbooks, at least their next game. The Steelers odds for their NFL Week 3 affair against the San Francisco 49ers have them as 6.5-point underdogs. That puts the Steelers moneyline for Week 3 at +200 against a 49ers squad that roughed up the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2. The real question becomes, are the Steelers a better team with Mason Rudolph at the helm, or are the 49ers for real? It may be a little of both: Rudolph was great and the 49ers sure looked like a team trending in the right direction after a disappointing 2018 season. There are too many unknown variables in this one for any advice, so go with your get rather than your head when making your pick this week.