Though neither "quarterback" of the Pittsburgh Steelers is currently at risk for missing games, it is a near certainty that at least one of the team's two best players will miss playing time in 2012.
Odds heavily favor an injury to one of these crucial athletes, and when it happens, nobody can dispute the absence of Big Ben or Troy as the most deeply felt along the roster.
In the last six seasons, Polamalu has lost 21 games due to injury, which equates to an average of approximately 3-4 contests per season. Even on a per-average basis, the absence of No. 43, the quarterback of the defense (at least in spirit) and most important on-field, all-around contributor, for 20 percent or more of a season has a huge impact.
More than anything, even disregarding the numbers, Polamalu's style of play—a physical brand that scoffs in the face of modern change—is conducive to injury.
Nobody should want the star safety to change a thing; his style has profound positive impact that far outweighs the risks he chooses to take! Yet, one must accept the sobering reality that a 16-game contribution is unlikely, considering he's only gotten through an entire year twice since 2006: 2008 and 2011.
By his own admission, the totals could be greater, as Polamalu has lied about concussion symptoms (via ESPN) to stay in games.
When you get your bell rung they consider that a concussion -- I wouldn't ... If that is considered a concussion, I'd say any football player at least records 50 to 100 concussions a year.
Ben Roethlisberger was tasked with tweaking his style by Art Rooney during the offseason, an objective that the championship quarterback and his offensive coordinator are surely addressing this preseason.
Altogether, No. 7 has looked crisp and mostly decisive, though nobody can expect the raw gunslinger that rests on Ben's heart to completely keep his pistols in their holsters.
Unfortunately, that personal style also has a cost, which effectively shoots Ben in his own gunslinger's foot.
With every play as an opportunity to make good on offense, Roethlisberger has a hard time conceding before his fight against the odds—even in the most dire straits—reaches a conclusion.
This has resulted in many hair-rising and physics-defying escapes, in addition to a number of explosive downfield plays that help Ben maintain a high-average yards per attempt.
There have been other results that are not so glamorous. It's an element of his style, even tweaked, that has to be accepted. From being hauled off on a gurney in the 2008 season finale to last year's ankle injury, Ben has shown that it is difficult to get through 16 games unscathed as a physical field general.
Since 2005, Ben has started every regular-season game only once, missing a single game on four occasions and multiple games once, discounting the 2010 season for obvious reasons.
If fans conducted a poll of the team's best player, Roethlisberger and Polamalu would rank first and second in total votes, and I have little doubt that any other player who would come close to their portion of the selections. Simply, they're the most important players on the team.
Is it any coincidence that the one season in which they both started every game, despite No. 7's injury during Monday Night Football in Washington, that the Steelers won the Super Bowl? If it is, their mutual presence in either phase of the game assisted greatly in pursuit of a sixth championship.
When they are lost, their loss is felt dramatically. The Steelers, ever the professional franchise, find a way to get by even in the toughest of times, winning games even without their most important athletes. Still, those victories are made much harder with the absence of either man.
Over one two-year stretch, the Men of Steel were 14-4 with Polamalu in the lineup. Without him? 5-7
The good news is that history shows the team will continue to fight valiantly in pursuit of victory no matter the challenge. Sure, one or both players have lost playing time in five of the past six years, but the Steelers have made the playoffs in four of those campaigns.
After all, that is what great teams do.