Monday, May 21, 2007

Steigerwald's Sunday column

In the Sunday edition of the Washington Observer-Reporter columnist John Steigerwald asks "Will Tomlin have guts to yank Roethlisberger?" More specifically, he ponders the question: "If Roethlisberger comes out of the chute throwing interceptions at the same rate that he threw them last year, how long will it be before Tomlin gives him the hook?" Clearly, Steigerwald is reaching for something . . . anything . . . to fill column space in these long days between the draft and training camp.

My first reaction to Steigerwald's question is: Don't worry about it. In his first three seasons Ben Roethlisberger has almost always played well, except when returning from injury. It's self-evident that most of Roethlisberger's struggles last season were due to the emergency apendectomy, concussion, and possibly the lingering effects of the motorcycle accident. In his first two games after the apendectomy (at Jacksonville, Cincinnati) and first game after the concussion (at Oakland) Ben threw nine interceptions and zero touchdown passes. Bottom line? It's clear that Charlie Batch should have been the quarterback in those games.

So perhaps Steigerwald is asking the wrong question. Assuming Ben is healthy enough to play effectively, I believe Roethlisberger has earned to right to play through a game--or a series of games--in which he struggles. Actually, Tomlin's toughest decision(s) will be when to start Batch in lieu of Roethlisberger. In this regard, perhaps Tomlin will be more sensible--and more conservative--than Bill Cowher. After all, Roethlisberger won a Super Bowl for Cowher, but hasn't yet done so for his new coach, so Tomlin may not feel that same sense of blind allegiance.


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