Ben Roethlisberger Absence a Blessing?

Joel McMillanContributor IMay 3, 2010

CLEVELAND - DECEMBER 10: Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers throws a pass against the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium on December 10, 2009 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

If I told you that your favorite NFL team was going to be without their two-time Super Bowl-winning, Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback for the first four-to-six games of the regular season, you would naturally be a little upset, right? 

However, in the case of the 2010 Pittsburgh Steelers and their fans, it may be a blessing in disguise.

Let's rewind to 2004. Ben Roethlisberger was just a rookie quarterback averaging 20-25 pass attempts per game, while his team's run game, led by Jerome Bettis, was ranked second in the league in rushing yards and first in attempts. Having the highest ranked defense in the league always helps too. The Steelers went 15-1 that year and made a trip to the AFC Championship game.

Fast forward to 2009. Roethlisberger is a seasoned veteran, equipped with a core of receivers that most NFL quarterbacks ask Santa for Christmas, and a pass-happy offensive coordinator in Bruce Arians. Roethlisberger averages 30-35 pass attempts per game, the run game ranks towards the middle of the pack, Steelers go 9-7 and miss the playoffs.

Coincidence? No way.

Putting Roethlisberger's off-the-field issues aside for a moment, let's talk about his on-the-field issues. If you talked to a rookie Roethlisberger six years ago, you would be talking to a guy who would rather have 15 pass attempts and win than have 30 and lose. 

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Now, you're looking at a guy who would put personal stats ahead of wins and have COMPLETE control of the offense and it's playcalling. 

What happened? Was it the $100 million contract? The endorsements? We may never know.

The fact is, when the Steelers put the game in the hands of their run game, they will win. They have proven it for the past 40 years that the run game is their gasoline for success. Put it in the hands of an ego-stricken quarterback, they might win. Where does this put a Byron Leftwich, Dennis Dixon, or a Charle Batch?

In prime position for success, that's where.

You have an inexperienced, half-proven guy in Dixon, an inconsistent gun-slinger in Leftwich, and Batch who is more of a coach than a player. Do you want any one of these guys throwing the ball 30-35 times a game? Probably not, but putting any one of them underneath center will make the Pittsburgh Steelers that much stronger.

Without an elite quarterback, the Steelers would have no choice but to turn to their run game. Really, is giving the ball to a proven runner in Rashard Mendenhall who had over 1,100 yards rushing in 12 starts a bad thing? With the return of a hard-nosed run game and two star players on defense in Troy Polamalu and Aaron Smith, don't expect the Pittsburgh Steelers to miss too much of Roethlisberger.