Saturday, December 15, 2007

Should Tomlin start Roethlisberger?

Last season Bill Cowher and the Steelers' medical staff let Ben Roethlisberger come back too quickly after both the appendectomy and the concussion he suffered against the Falcons. It cost them the game at Oakland and arguably the game at Jacksonville as well. So if Big Ben is "questionable" to start against the Jags tomorrow I would hope that Mike Tomlin leans against starting him.

First, the Steelers need a relatively healthy Roethlisberger to make any noise in the post-season; he's not going to get any healthier facing the Jags' fierce defense. And don't forget that the Steelers play again just four days after the Jags game, which doesn't leave him much time to recover for that matchup. Also, backup Charlie Batch has proven he can play effectively and win games coming off the bench.

Finally, a big factor that never gets mentioned is: If Tomlin starts Batch and the offense sputters he can always bring Roethlisberger on in relief, potentially giving the crowd and the team a big lift. If Big Ben starts and the offense is ineffective (as was the case in the 9-0 loss at Jacksonville last year), it will be very, very difficult for Tomlin to pull Roethlisberger in favor of Batch. As a Super Bowl-winning franchise QB, Roethlisberger has long since earned the right to play through any struggles he or the offense might experience.

Let's hope Tomlin doesn't make the same mistakes Cowher made in terms of allowing an injured Roethlisberger to start.

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