One thing we know about the Steelers, they take the “us against the world” mentality and run with it any chance they get. Bill Cowher preached it during his tenure, and the players today still use it when they feel like nobody is giving them a chance.
Right now, most of the league “experts” are leaving the Steelers for dead now that Ben Roethlisberger is out indefinitely with his rib and shoulder injury. Things like “they’ll be competitive but” or “Leftwich is a good, veteran QB, but” can be heard all over sports talk radio now. It’s nothing new for Pittsburgh to be left out of playoff talk at one point or another each year but somehow they usually find a way to respond when their backs are against the wall.
Veteran Byron Leftwich, who’s been in the league since 2003 will make his first start in what seems like forever. Actually it was 2009 when he started a few games for the Buccaneers. He spent most of 2010 and 2011 on injured reserve but the Steelers thought enough of him, and Charlie Batch, to keep the veteran trio intact in Pittsburgh rather than going with rookie Jerrod Johnson when final roster cuts came in.
Lefty, as I like to call him, knows all too well that he’s got more than his share of doubters as he takes over the helm of Todd Haley’s offense. As Alan Robinson of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes: “I know they’re saying, `Hey, man, they got a backup quarterback playing Sunday night against the Ravens’ and we understand nobody’s giving us a shot,” Leftwich said. “That’s OK.”
As center Maurkice Pouncey said, “I think we’ll do a great job with him. People are making this out to be bigger than it’s going to be.”
Even former Steeler Hines Ward isn’t giving his old teammates a fighting chance without Roethlisberger in the lineup. Ward was asked how far he thinks the Steelers can go without Big Ben: “Not very far, not very far at all. He is their whole team.”
The Steelers were thought to be dead and gone earlier this year when they started out their losing to NFL bottom feeders like the Raiders and Titans. The defense was questionable at best, the offense was showing positive signs but couldn’t finish off games, you name it, and everyone was saying it. I fully admit I had my doubts that they’d be playoff contenders this year if things didn’t turn around.
That’s the beauty of the NFL; things can change in a hurry especially when you have a veteran team. The players in the locker room never lost faith and rallied to win their last 4 in a row and put themselves back into contention for the AFC North crown. Let’s face it, the easiest road to the playoffs is to win your division and avoid the last minute Christmas rush for the final 2 wild card spots that Santa dangles over your head in late December.
Sorry for the little Christmas reference there but you get the idea.
The point is this Steelers team has worked too hard and overcome too much to get into the position of fighting for the division lead, to let it slip away. Granted it won’t be easy trying to win any game without Big Ben on the field, but with an improving defense and ground attack, along with solid special teams play they can give themselves a chance to win each week. I may sound like a homer for saying that, and yes I did put on my black n gold sunglasses for a minute but it’s the truth. You can’t ever count out a quality coached team who has a desire to win and defy the odds.
As far as the game this weekend against the Ravens, this is where you separate the men from the boys. The Steelers know what’s at stake and the opportunity in front of them. They need only look back to last year for any additional inspiration.
This opportunity isn’t guaranteed to come around again this season so winning this game is paramount, Ben or no Ben.