Big Ben Returns
Ben Roethlisberger returns to Heinz Field this Sunday to square off against the Cleveland Browns after serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL personal conduct policy.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are 3-1 in Roethlisberger's absence, a very surprising record for a team that most experts picked to finish third in the AFC North, and were hopeful to come away with a 2-2 record without the two-time Super Bowl champion quarterback.
Veteran quarterback Charlie Batch has managed the offense well as Roethlisberger's replacement. Batch has completed 29 of 49 pass attempts for 352 yards for three touchdowns in three games.
His stats are not overly impressive, but Batch is making his starts count. The defense is carrying the load, but he served as a worthy backup.
The Steelers defense is finally back to full strength and it showing by the way they produce on the field.
They are giving up a NFL-best 62.3 rushing yards per game and rank first in many defensive categories including takeaways and total points given up per game.
It helps that the Steelers return Pro Bowl defensive lineman Aaron Smith as well as a future Hall of Famer and arguably the best safety in the game, Troy Polamalu.
Return of Ben Roethlisberger
The Steelers played some tough opponents in the four games that Ben was suspended. The four teams the Steelers played have a 14-5 combined record.
They defeated an Atlanta Falcons team that is arguably the best team in the entire NFC and suffered its only loss to the Steelers.
The Steelers' only loss is a 17-14 defeat at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens, a team that is also 4-1, who most experts considered a Super Bowl favorite.
The Steelers had a 14-10 lead with 32 seconds left in the fourth quarter with Batch at quarterback, who completed 14 of 21 pass attempts with an interception for a 57.8 quarterback rating.
What does Roethlisberger do for the Steelers?
I would think that the Steelers offense could muster one touchdown with Roethlisberger at quarterback.
Last year Ben was one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, and the Steelers offense opened up their playbook.
Roethlisberger passed for 4,328 yards with 26 touchdowns and only 12 interceptions for a quarterback rating of 100.5.
What does Ben's Return Mean For the Steelers This Season?
The Steelers defense is by far the best in the NFL and is back to Super Bowl form. They are the backbone of the team.
Roethlisberger will come into this week against the Browns searching for a new identity. He will be out to prove to himself that he can help the Steelers win.
The Baltimore Ravens are considered to be the team to beat in the AFC North with Joe Flacco coming into his own.
But what about the Pittsburgh Steelers? With Roethlisberger back they have a solid team that can and will compete for a Super Bowl Championship.
I expect the Steelers to win the AFC North and ultimately represent the AFC in the 2011 Super Bowl in Dallas.