After being released from the hospital without having to stay overnight, Ben Roethlisberger made an appearance at the Steelers practice facility today. Although he, along with James Farrior and other veterans, did not take part in the activities.
"We held him out today", said coach Mike Tomlin, "like we did with James Farrior and a lot of veteran players."
"We're going to proceed slowly with him because we have that luxury, but we're comfortable with where he is relative to being ready for our next game."
Coach Tomlin was referring, of course, to the battery of tests that follow after a player suffers a concussion as serious as Roethlisberger did against the Browns. Although not knowing the results at the time, coach Tomlin stated, "We have less urgency this time around because we don't have a game this week, quite honestly".
Anyone who remembers Roethlisberger's near-fatal motorcycle accident in 2006 should also remember how it affected him then. With the accident happening so close to the start of the season, Big Ben was rushed through recovery to get him back on the field, and the effects of the concussion still lingered.
It took him the better part of the season to regain the sharpness he had prior to the accident, and by then it was too late as the Steelers went 8-8 that year and missed the playoffs.
With an extra week off due to earning the second seed in the AFC, the Steelers would be wise to take as much time as necessary to ensure that Roethlisberger is up to form before putting him back on the field. Coach Tomlin has already indicated that he may hold him out of practice for the rest of the week to give him the extra time to heal.
If Big Ben can't go, the task will fall to Byron Leftwich. Leftwich has seen limited action this year, only coming into two games where Roethlisberger was too injured to continue, and finishing the game in others where the outcome of a victory was all but certain.
Although not as physical a quarterback as Roethlisberger, Leftwich is an experienced passer who should be able to hold his own. But he has been plagued with ankle problems throughout his career, and his one playoff appearance against the New England Patriots ended in a 28-3 defeat.
Roethlisberger not only has playoff experience, he has a Super Bowl ring as the winning quarterback. For all intents and purposes, the Steelers need him to heal, quickly and completely, in time for the AFC divisional playoff.
Otherwise, they must put the fate of the Steelers Super Bowl hopes in the hands of a man who is effectively a playoff rookie.
Rookie quarterbacks plus the playoffs usually equals a quick exit.