When an NFL team is playing poorly, fans get emotional. And when fans get emotional, they often become reactionary. There are few fanbases in any sport who are as passionate or wear their hearts on their sleeves like the fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
As this team dipped to 2-6 on Sunday with a loss to the New England Patriots, fingers are starting to point. And rightfully so. When painting the picture of who is to blame for the failures of this season, one must use a broad brush.
One player who should not be in that picture is quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Roethlisberger proved again in Week 9 that for all that is wrong with this team, he is exactly what is right. Here's the line for Roethlisberger in Sunday's loss.
It's hard to ever criticize a player who throws for 400 yards in a game, even in a loss. In fact, just watching the things that Roethlisberger did against the Patriots, it's hard to think he still doesn't have five or six more very productive seasons ahead of him. The question is will the Steelers front office put a competitive team around him?
And assuming that is true, no way do I want those being for any other team.
Roethlisberger hit a significant milestone on Sunday, throwing for his 200th career touchdown pass and having done so in 135 career games. By comparison, the franchise leader in touchdown passes, Terry Bradshaw has 212, but it took him 161 games to reach that mark.
As far as I am concerned, what Roethlisberger did today in passing for 400 or more yards in a game for the sixth time in his career, while moving within just 10 touchdown passes of becoming the franchise's all-time leader, affords him a great deal of leeway in a bad season.
Sunday, Roethlisberger wasn't able to utilize his greatest weapon, his ability to extend plays with his legs. The offensive line often collapsed so quickly that Roethlisberger couldn't even escape. A lot of players would lose their cool when taken out of their element like that, but all Roethlisberger did was make quicker reads and sharper throws, dropping dimes all over the field.
Roethlisberger proved today that for all the players, coaches and hot dog vendors that need to be cut loose, he is not one of them. Keep pointing those fingers, but point them away from No. 7.
Who do you want at quarterback the next five seasons?
It boggles the mind that even in a season so miserable that anyone would consider cutting loose a franchise quarterback. In this entire league there aren't 15 elite quarterbacks, so the notion of giving up on one in the prime of his career and on the heels of a 400-yard passing game is asinine.
There were lots of mistakes on Sunday, but the one bright spot from this entire game is just how fortunate Steeler fans are to have a player like Roethlisberger running their team.
All statistics provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com.