Early reports from inside the Steelers organization, according to ESPN, are that Ben Roethlisberger has a severely sprained shoulder and Pittsburgh could be without him for the next few weeks. Another inside source reported to ESPN that the Steelers coaching staff has been told to proceed with the assumption that Roethlisberger will be out this week.
With the running game already being marred by injuries, the Steelers have been relying heavily on their passing attack to put points on the board. Running backs Isaac Redman, Rashard Mendenhall and Jonathan Dwyer have all missed playing time over the last few weeks due to injury, and Pittsburgh has just four rushing touchdowns on the season, putting them in the bottom five of the league in that category.
If Roethlisberger is out, that could leave the burden of the offense squarely on the shoulders of Byron Leftwich. While Leftwich did finish out the game for the Steelers Monday night after the loss of Roethlisberger, the offense was noticeably stagnant with their star quarterback out of the game.
Leftwich completed just 7-of-14 passes for 73 yards in relief of Big Ben. He does not possess the quick release or arm strength that Ben brings to the offense, which is necessary to run offensive coordinator Todd Haley's downfield approach.
If the Steelers struggle in the absence of Ben Roethlisberger, they could let teams like the Bengals or Dolphins catch up to them in the wild-card race. Both teams currently sit two games behind the Steelers in the standings.
The amount of time that Big Ben misses could determine whether the Steelers find their way into the playoffs this season.