Despite some of the criticism he’s received this season, I think Ben Roethlisberger is the only thing really separating the Steelers from being as bad as the Jaguars or Buccaneers. If the Steelers have any chance of pulling off some sort of miracle run to make the playoffs, they need to keep Big Ben healthy. That could prove to be a big challenge this Sunday.
Ben has been sacked 36 times this season, which is tied for the 2nd highest number in the NFL. Not one regular starter on the offensive line practiced fully on Wednesday. Ramon Foster looks to be the only one at this point that is likely to miss the game Sunday, but other guys there could be playing at less than 100 percent.
That’s bad in any circumstances, but especially bad when you consider the Steelers have a matchup with probably the most aggressive (and dirty, according to most people) defender in the league, Ndamukong Suh. Suh has quite a reputation for roughing up quarterbacks, before or after the whistle is blown. Type his name into youtube, and there’s plenty of plays for Ben to have nightmares about.
The franchise quarterback is well aware of it too, as he said on Wednesday when asked about the Lion defensive line, “Well, yeah, you’ve got to be careful,” he said. “You’ll end up dead if you’re not careful.”
Suh has 5.5 sacks on the season, which isn’t too shabby for an interior lineman (not to mention a lot more QB hurries and hits), but it’s not just Suh that’s dangerous. Suh’s teammate Nick Fairley also had quite the reputation at Auburn for foul play. Then there’s the Lion first round pick Ezekiel Ansah, who’s listed at 270 pounds, but displays the athleticism of a man that’s 220.
Those three did a number on the already hobbled Jay Cutler last week. Cutler was hit 11 times in that game, and suffered a high ankle sprain, and that was with a much improved Bears offensive line.
As much as I loved the signing of Bruce Gradkowski, if the Steelers want to have any hope of “stacking win” as Mike Tomlin put it, they need to keep the Lions’ defensive line off of their starting quarterback.