Ben Roethlisberger Is Healthy...Or Is He?

Justin ZuckerCorrespondent IJanuary 8, 2009

Ben Roethlisberger has been cleared to play in Sunday's playoff game vs. the Chargers.  According to Mike Tomlin, Roethlisberger was given a clean bill of health after passing the full battery of tests.

I don't doubt Mike Tomlin.  In fact, the Steelers along with Dr. Joseph Maroon operate some of the most comprehensive post-concussion analysis in the NFL.  I am sure Ben is clinically fine.

The question on everyone's mind is, "Is he ready to play?" According to today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Ben is still having headaches and it hurts him to put on his helmet because it is "too tight." That is a concern.

Up until that quote, I had been dismissing the injury as a mild concussion that shouldn't create much of an issue. Two weeks off should be fine. Players often suffer a concussion and return the next week. But Ben doesn't have that history.

There are two major concerns for me. 

The first is his health.  If he gets bounced around a few times, and history has shown us he will, how will his body react?  Will there be long-term effects?  Will he become gun shy?  Will his decision making be solid?

The second concern revolves around the team. I think the Steelers are very strong and are legitimate Super Bowl contenders. I also think that this season has parity like no other.  I could see five or six different teams winning the Super Bowl.  I can't say that about other seasons.

I firmly believe that the Steelers can win on Sunday without Roethlisberger.  There defense has carried them through this season. I think Byron Leftwich is more than capable of getting them through one game. That isn't meant to discount the Chargers, they could easily remain hot.

The concern I have is that Ben is going to start. And rightfully so, he should start. The problem is that the Steelers can't overcome a poor, mistake filled first half. If they have to go to Leftwich after a few key mistakes they will be in serious trouble.

Going to Leftwich would mean they were down a few touchdowns, unless of course he is injured and then my point is moot. 

Going into the half with a deficit greater than 10 points would not bode well.

Perhaps I am just being a typical Steelers fan.  We are the "Chicken Little's" of the sports world. But it is enough to cause Steelers fans some concern. 

I will feel much better after that first successful drive.