Pittsburgh Steelers: New Priority Should Be Healthy Roster for the Playoffs

Chris GazzeCorrespondent IDecember 20, 2011

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - DECEMBER 19:  Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers is helped off the ground after he was sacked by the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park on December 19, 2011 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Monday night gave us a lot to forget, but one thing is clear: if the Pittsburgh Steelers are going to make a playoff run, they must get healthy.

Playing with an injured Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers were only able to score three points on offense. Granted they were playing a tough San Francisco defense, but it was still a winnable game for the Steelers.

Despite Roethlisberger's injury, offensive coordinator Bruce Arians called a game as if his quarterback was playing with a healthy ankle. There were a number of instances where Roethlisberger would have escaped if healthy, but his mobility was so limited that he could not play his normal game.

The injury was one of the major reasons Roethlisberger turned the ball over four times and failed to produce a touchdown.

Now with the loss behind them, the Steelers must move forward, and while they should not concede the division, Pittsburgh should look ahead to the bigger goal at hand.

If the Steelers are to have any chance at a return trip to the Super Bowl, they must get their star players healthy.

Pittsburgh closes out the season at home against the St. Louis Rams and then on the road against the Cleveland Browns. Both games are winnable even starting backups.

That means that Roethlisberger should sit and rest the remaining two games with the hopes of regaining some of his mobility for the playoffs.

While he could continue to go out there and probably play much better than Monday night, it is not worth risking further injury, whether it is to his ankle or elsewhere.

Part of the reason Roethlisberger is under so much pressure is the shuffling of the offensive line with Maurkice Pouncey's high ankle sprain.

Unlike Roethlisberger, Pouncey would be completely ineffective with an immobile ankle. He is by far the Steelers best offensive lineman and is a difference-maker when on the field. Do they really need him against the Rams and Browns? I would much have him ready for a game that truly matters.

Defensively, the Steelers are fairly healthy with the exception of linebacker LaMarr Woodley.

Woodley was unable to finish the game versus the Niners, and is another starter who should be shut down for the season.

Early in the season, Woodley was the most dominant pass-rusher in the league. Against San Francisco he showed little burst and was barely able to generate any rush.

Hamstring injuries are nothing to mess around with and Woodley will be no where near 100 percent until he has an offseason of rest. That is not an option right now, but two weeks of rest will help.

All three players are essential if the Steelers want to get out of the first round.

Until then, its competent backups must step up and get the job done against two of the NFL's worst teams.

Even if they don't get it done, at this point does it matter? Maybe for momentum reasons, but I'm almost certain that the Steelers would much rather have a healthy roster come January than worsen their situation over the final two weeks of the season.

Once the playoffs start, anything can happen. I like the Steelers' chances with a healthy Roethlisberger, Pouncey and Woodley. So should they.


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