Dear God, Protect Ben Roethlisberger, Please?

Paul LadewskiCorrespondent IIMay 15, 2009

TAMPA, FL - FEBRUARY 01:  Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates against the Arizona Cardinals during Super Bowl XLIII on February 1, 2009 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

If you drive a Lamborghini Murcielago, then you lock it in a garage and set the alarm. If you own the Millennium Star Diamond, then you store it in a vault. And if you’re alone with Kate Hudson, well, then you don’t let anyone come within a continent of her.

So can anyone tell my why, oh why, the Steelers want to protect $102-million quarterback Ben Roethlisberger with three pieces of balsa wood, one piece of Limburger, and an all-beef patty?

Of all the Lion-brained things that went down in the NFL draft last month, the steadfast reluctance of the Steelers to add as much as one stud O-lineman ranks among the biggest head-scratchers of them all. Check that. When you consider what’s at stake here—the health of a franchise QB and the potential for a Super Bowl repeat—it is the biggest one of all.

Last season, Roethlisberger was sacked 46 times, more than any quarterback in the league. Some believe Big Ben was to blame for it, so often did he move around in the pocket.

Sorry, but this fish ain’t bitin’, and here’s why: The same offense ranked 29th in yards per rush attempt (3.7) in the league. Does that mean Fast Willie Parker ran too fast? Or didn’t he run fast enough?

The Steelers didn’t ignore their No. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 needs entirely, as they drafted guard Kraig Urbik in the third round and center A.Q. Shipley four rounds later.

Problem is, neither one has Pro Bowl written all over him. Even if Urbik and/or Shipley do become starters—and some scouts believe they will—it won’t happen for a while. Big Ben could be in traction by then.

The Steelers couldn’t bid for a name free agent because of salary-cap limitations; not that they would ever consider that to be option, anyway. But with any number of nine picks to deal, they were in position to trade up in the first round.

Center Alex Mack (21st, Browns), tackle Michael Oher (23rd, Ravens ) and center Eric Wood (28th, Bills) went to AFC teams only a few spots before the Steelers chose defensive end Izzy Hood at the 32nd pick.

So as long as Roethlisberger has the required body parts, he will line up behind the Five Blocks of Putty, a.k.a. Max Starks, Chris Komeatu, Justin Hartwig, Darnell Stapleton, and Willie Colon, once again. Among them, only Hartwig is older than 27 years of age. The football brains claim there’s growth potential here.

Besides, these guys were good enough to win the big prize last season, right?

Here’s what I can’t get out of my head:

Week 17. Heinz Field. Two Cleveland Browns mistake Big Ben for a human spike and plant him into the ground, where he lays motionless for what seems to be an eternity while Steelers World says a novena.

Suppose the guy didn’t luck out and suffer only a spinal cord concussion. Let’s say the injury was worse than that. Think the Steelers would have been so Super then?

Maybe there’s something about Roethlisberger that we haven’t been told yet. Maybe the Man of Steel is made of steel. Maybe all they do is open one of his forearms and insert a triple-A battery every week. Otherwise, what the Steelers have done with their nine-figure investment and most important player makes no sense at all.

I just hope that I’m absolutely, positively, Al Davis-wrong here. I hope the Steelers O-line makes us forget Parker, Hannah, Webster, Gregg ,and Munoz next season, because I’d hate like heck for it to end strapped to a gurney. Not for the Steelers’ sake, but for Big Ben’s.