NFL Week 8: Roethlisberger—Will he start?

Last week, Steeler QB “Big Ben� Roethlisberger had his bell rung by the Atlanta Hawks and found himself on the sideline for the rest of the game. Backup, nine-year veteran QB Charlie Batch came in and, as he has done all season, acquitted himself well. In the six games that the 2- 4 Steelers have played this season, Batch has played in less than six quarters, yet he has as many touch down passes as Roethlisberger (five) and has thrown zero interceptions to Roethlisberger’s seven.

This is not a call to replace Roethlisberger with Batch. But it is a call for Bill Cowher to weigh very carefully any thought of starting his number one guy against Oakland. Everyone knows that Roethlisberger has had a rough six months physically. First there was the helmetless motorcycle accident, then the emergency appendectomy and, last week, the concussion.

There’s a lot of pressure on Cowher and the Super Bowl Champion Steelers to win and get back to the playoffs. Things don’t look good for Pittsburgh as they sit in third place in the AFC North, two games behind both Cincinnati and Baltimore and only one game up in the win column on Cleveland. They are 0- 3 on the road this season.

But Cowher should (and probably will) consider a few things:

1)Roethlisberger has a concussion, which can be tricky to evaluate. He may feel fine but a blow to the head this week could bench him for many more weeks, while resting the QB could really help in the long run.

2)Oakland is not the most dominant team in the NFL. In fact, they are one of the worst. It’s a perfect time to rest Roethlisberger, who has been less-than sharp this season.

3)The Denver Broncos are up next week. It’d be great to have a healthy Roethlisberger ready to go then.

4)Batch has been extremely effective as a replacement, perhaps the best in the league at standing-in.

5)The Steelers, as visitors, are nine-point favorites and that’s with Roethlisberger being listed as questionable.

No doubt that Cowher is feeling some major heat these days. Who else is going to take the blame for the Steelers’ disappointing performance thus far this season?

After Roethlisberger put in a full day’s practice on Thursday, Cowher said he was “very encouraged� by his starting QB’s improvement. Roethlisberger is still listed as “questionable� for today with his status being determined by game time, but there’s no question regarding whether or not he should play—let Ben sit against the Raiders to play another day.

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