Apr 21, 2010
The NFL has announced that Steeler QB Ben Roethlisberger will be suspended for six games and will not be eligible to play until Week Eight, on October 31st. However, according to NFL PR man Greg Aiello, the suspension could be reduced 2-4 games based on Roethlisberger’s cooperation of a mandated “comprehensive behavioral evaluation.”
Analysis: You have to expect Roethlisberger will completely comply with the league’s requests, so our best guess is that the suspension has a chance to be reduced two games, making it a four-game suspension. But as of now, it’s a six-game suspension and, should Roethlisberger fail to meet the league’s requests, the suspension could be more than eight games, according to Aiello. Also, Roethlisberger cannot attend any offseason team activities until he undergoes a behavior evaluation and his return is approved by professionals.
The games he’s slated to miss as of now are:
There’s already a flurry of rumors suggesting the Steelers may trade the troubled QB for a high pick in this week’s draft. If so, their entire offense will need to be downgraded significantly. But for now, let’s assume Roethlisberger will remain a Steeler and will miss only 4-6 games. Pittsburgh this week signed veteran Byron Leftwich, who’s played for the team previously. They now have Dennis Dixon, Charlie Batch, and Leftwich on the roster. It remains to be seen who will get the nod, but the smart money should probably be on the youngster Dixon, who the team is pretty high on. Dixon is a good athlete and he showed some poise in a game against Baltimore for the team last year. He’s also very mobile and has good escapability, which is a trait that has been needed in Pittsburgh the last few years. If he falters, then Leftwich would likely get a chance. Batch is a savvy veteran, but his game has fallen off and he does not have a strong arm and has major limitations as a passer. Leftwich is still extremely sluggish and slow, but he does have a big arm.
Regardless of who starts, the fact is the Steelers will lean more than ever on their running game, which is good news for starter Rashard Mendenhall. Mendenhall is very talented and built to handle a massive workload; he just has to continue to play with a sense of urgency and “bring it” each week, and he has to control his fumbling issues. But the potential is there for 325+ carries for Mendenhall (242 in 2009), as well as 60+ pass targets (31). We’ll see if the team invests a somewhat high pick on a back in this week’s draft, but Mendenhall looks very appealing given his skills and this situation. Clearly, the Steelers will also be hoping their defense returns to form and getting a healthy Troy Polamalu back on the field will go a long way toward that goal.
As for their passing game, we should expect the QB to lean on possession types like WR Hines Ward and TE Heath Miller, especially if it’s Dixon. Leftwich has the arm to get Mike Wallace the ball deep, but this news is especially a downer for the still unproven second-year receiver, who should slide into the starting lineup due to the trading of veteran Santonio Holmes. Of course, we’ll have to downgrade Ward and Miller a little given this news as well. And we’ll have to see if the team invests a higher pick on one of the many solid WRs in this draft.