Entering Monday night's game with the Kansas City Chiefs, Ben Roethlisberger was planted firmly in the NFL MVP discussion. After the 16-13 overtime victory, the only chatter surrounding the quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers is whether or not he will be available for next week's showdown with the Baltimore Ravens.
Though the win allowed the Steelers to keep pace with the Ravens in advance of their first meeting on Sunday night, it would come with a huge price.
Roethlisberger would leave the game on the opening possession of the third quarter when Chiefs linebackers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston combined for a sack.
Backup Byron Leftwich would finish the game under center.
The initial diagnosis is that Roethlisberger suffered a sprained shoulder and that the team would know the results of an MRI on Tuesday (h/t Gregg Rosenthal, NFL.com)
Though Leftwich is capable of performing in a pinch, the big question is whether or not he can lead this team if Roethlisberger misses an extended period of time.
With an inconsistent running game (averaging only 103.8 yards per game) and a Pittsburgh defense that has failed to force turnovers (only nine all season), the answer is no.
While the defense ranks first in the NFL in yards allowed at 265.7 and seventh in scoring at 19.7 points per game, one would assume that Leftwich would simply need to be a game manager for Pittsburgh to back into the playoffs at this point.
Though that may be the case—with the AFC wide open this season—the Steelers would need to get healthy on both sides of the ball to advance in the postseason.
With this franchise's storied history, simply being invited to the dance won't cut it.
However, if the Steelers are forced out of their comfort zone on offense, the likes of the Ravens, Houston Texans and New England Patriots wouldn't have a problem slowing them down—ultimately ending any chance of Pittsburgh making 2012 a success.