The Pittsburgh Steelers have 10 games left, and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger might miss half of them.
Chris Mortensen of ESPN reports the timetable on Roethlisberger’s return from a knee injury is four-to-six weeks. That’s longer than the initial pre-surgery estimate of two-to-three weeks. Roethlisberger is notoriously tough so perhaps he beats the new timetable. But if he does miss six weeks, that puts a significant dent in the Steelers’ season.
Here is Pittsburgh’s schedule the next six weeks:
Week 7, vs. Patriots
Week 8, Bye
Week 9, at Ravens
Week 10, vs. Cowboys
Week 11, at Browns
Week 12, at Colts
The Steelers did go 2-2 in the four games Roethlisberger missed last season, but it wasn’t always pretty with Mike Vick and Landry Jones starting. Jones will be the starter this week against the Patriots, with Roethlisberger out. Zach Mettenberger will back him up.
The good news for the Steelers is the AFC North looks weaker than it has the past couple years. The Steelers lead the division at 4-2. The Baltimore Ravens are 3-3, but have lost three in a row. The Cincinnati Bengals, last season’s division champs, are 2-4.
Perhaps the Steelers can tread water until Roethlisberger can return, but Jones has not shown he can be a competent replacement. Jones has just 56 career attempts. Jones had a terrible four-interception performance this preseason against the Philadelphia Eagles. He’s a major step down from Roethlisberger, obviously. Even if the Steelers can survive and win the AFC North with Roethlisberger missing a long stretch of the season, it seems to be a long shot to get a top-two seed and a bye in the AFC. That makes their Super Bowl road a lot longer.
Maybe Roethlisberger can return sooner than hoped. But it might be ugly until he can.
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