Monday, October 17, 2016

Steelers positioned to survive Ben Roethlisberger knee injury

Jeremy FowlerESPN Staff Writer 17, 2016

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7), sits on the ground and would leave the field during first half action against the Miami Dolphins during their NFL game Sunday October 15, 2016 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens. (Bill Ingram / The Palm Beach Post)

PITTSBURGH -- That Ben Roethlisberger could miss one or two games with a torn left meniscus is a manageable situation for a team equipped to handle injuries, specifically quarterback injuries.
The Big Ben-Tom Brady clash won't happen Sunday in Heinz Field because of Roethlisberger's surgery Monday, as confirmed by ESPN's Adam Schefter and first reported by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
But the big-picture goals are still mostly intact for Pittsburgh, despite an erratic defense that has allowed 64 points in its past two road games.
If the Steelers revel in chances to rally, nothing screams team-building like hosting the New England Patriots without a star quarterback. Let's see what they can do.
A potential loss to the Patriots, followed by the bye week, sets the stage for Roethlisberger to return for Week 9 against the Baltimore Ravens, depending on how the knee heals. That would make the Steelers 4-3 heading into a crucial divisional matchup, the same situation when Roethlisberger returned from a sprained medial collateral ligament last season in time for the Cincinnati Bengals game.
That didn't stop them from making the playoffs. The Steelers are accustomed to dealing with Roethlisberger's short absences. After Sunday, Roethlisberger will have missed at least one game in nine of his last 12 seasons. The Steelers haven't finished worse than 8-8 in any of them.
Landry Jones doesn't have the backup quarterback cachet of Dallas' Dak Prescott and New England's Jimmy Garoppolo, but the Steelers feel he's capable. In his last extended action, he was 19-of-22 for 206 yards against New Orleans in the preseason.
Last year, the Steelers went 2-2 with a clumsy backup situation while Roethlisberger was out. Michael Vick struggled mightily through two-and-a-half games before the team gave Jones the keys. In Jones' only NFL start, the Steelers battled the Kansas City Chiefs on the road in a 23-13 loss.
Le'Veon Bell got 17 carries for 121 yards that day, and he should carry the ball at least 20 times against New England. The Steelers' best chance is to pound the ball.
The Steelers can create a game plan that gives Jones quick and decisive third-down throws with an occasional deep shot to Sammie Coates or Antonio Brown.
A defense that got humbled in Miami could have linebacker Ryan Shazier and defensive end Cam Heyward back for the New England game, and if not, definitely for the Ravens.
The Steelers responded in a big way after the Week 3 blowout at the Philadelphia Eagles, holding the Chiefs and New York Jets to a combined 27 points.
After several injuries the last two years, the Steelers are accustomed to managing change.
A left meniscus won't determine their fate.

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