As if Ben Roethlisberger's ankle injury wasn't bad enough on its own, more Pittsburgh Steelers are hurt after Week 4. Rashard Mendenhall's hamstring and James Harrison's fractured orbital are serious blows to an already struggling 2-2 team.
Both are significant because not only is Mendenhall very doubtful for Sunday, but Mewelde Moore is already out, which leaves the workload on Isaac Redman. As far as Harrison is concerned, coach Mike Tomlin stated he will miss significant time. This is not what Steeler Nation wanted to hear.
Now, as Roethlisberger would be the first to admit, he holds the ball too long. But right now he isn't even really getting a chance to hold the ball. The offensive line is an absolute mess, and it's not just affecting the passing game. The running game is also being stifled because none of the backs can find any holes. It is incapacitating the entire offense. Remember, this isn't the Jaguars. The Steelers have as many playmakers, at every skill position, as anybody in the league.
Lets start at the run. If the Steelers can't run, they can't pass. Rashard Mendenhall hurt his hamstring and Mewelde Moore is out with foot injury of some kind. It's at least bad enough to be in a boot. That leaves the running game on Isaac Redman's shoulders with some touches going to Jonathan Dwyer. Not very encouraging.
If that doesn't work, Roethlisberger will already be less mobile. How will he get the ball to Wallace, Ward, Sanders, Brown and Miller? That's a good question. Also, this isn't the 2010 Steelers, who overcame Big Ben's suspension last year to go 3-1. If he can't stand in the pocket I don't know what makes anybody think Charlie Batch can hold up. And there's no help from the schedule as Tennessee's hard pass rushing defense is coming to town.
The defense is less of a problem, but James Harrison's absence will be felt. The Steelers have an outstanding set of linebackers—starting linebackers. Their second team linebackers are slightly lacking. That's not to say they're bad.
Larry Foote WAS outstanding, but he has slowed. Harrison is backed up by second-year man Jason Worilds. These are capable backups, but they better hope Harrison isn't lost for that long. We also need to remember that Troy Polamalu is always one play away from an injury and with somebody like Harrison missing time, Polamalu will be flying around at double speed to make up for it.
If they lose this week the schedule is somewhat forgiving against Jacksonville and at Arizona before the high flying New England Patriots come to visit. This team isn't dead yet, but they have a lot to figure out.
Straightening out the offensive line would go a long way to helping, not only by keeping their quarterback upright, but by allowing the running game to get some traction. Thus allowing the offense to help the defense by keeping it off the field some. It's a crucial three weeks, let's see what Tomlin has up his sleeve.