With the end of the season approaching way more rapidly than I’d like, it seems as though starting quarterbacks are dropping like flies around the league. Since the trade deadline was all the way back in Week 6, a lot of those teams are screwed or forced to put on a happy face while propping up their backup quarterback that no one ever heard of. The Denver Broncos recently released Kyle Orton, who was quickly picked up by the Kansas City Chiefs off of waivers after their starting quarterback, Matt Cassel, went down with a season-ending injury to his throwing hand. Now the Chiefs have two options for their Sunday night matchup against the Steelers; 1. Start Tyler Palko on a short week after a 3 INT performance against the Patriots, or 2. Start Kyle Orton who just got a glimpse of the playbook on Wednesday afternoon. The Chicago Bears and the Houston Texans are two 7-3 teams trying to figure out what to do at their starting quarterback spot.
Meanwhile in Pittsburgh, Ben is still wearing the boot on his foot and is now going to be playing with a broken thumb on his throwing hand. Tomlin assured the media on Tuesday that it was not a question if Ben would be playing or not on Sunday night, he’s not even going to show up on the injury report. Even though every Steeler fan wonders if Ben’s style of play and his habit of playing through injuries will ultimately shorten his career, on this day of giving thanks I for one could not be more thankful for a quarterback that personifies the toughness of the city he represents.
There was a time when this Steeler fan in particular wasn’t so thankful for Ben Roethlisberger. For all accounts, up until last season Ben was widely considered a douchebag around the city and with most of his teammates. Ben himself admitted to falling into the hype of the “Big Ben” persona and carried himself as if he was bigger than the team. I won’t get into the particulars of motorcycle crashes and sexual assault accusations, but some summers have been pretty rough for those of us with the undying love for the Black & Gold. Thankfully, it appears that all that stuff is behind him.
We all were admittedly a little weary when James Harrison’s Men’s Journal article came out, with quotes blasting Ben for his interceptions in the Super Bowl. Then we all caught the picture of Ben and James holding hands and skipping out of the locker room together during training camp. Ben and other starters elected to restructure their contracts this offseason in order to free up cap space to resign other veterans and make key acquisitions like Jericho Cotchery.
Steeler fans can also be thankful that Ben is having one of his best statistical seasons of his career. Through 10 games Ben has 16 touchdowns and 2,877 yards with a 93.1 quarterback rating. He’s also completing 63% of his passes to a wide receiving corps that we all knew would be turning heads around the league. Ben is proving that yes he does belong on that list of “elite” quarterbacks in the league. He’s not just a scrambler or a game manager that hands the ball off to a running back and relies on a stout defense. And Ben will play through injury. The critics can say all they want that Ben’s injuries are played up and they can’t be too serious or he would sit out but he will either strap a Frankenstein shoe on a broken foot, slap a shield over his helmet to cover a healing broken nose, or adjust his grip to compensate for a broken thumb.
Ben knows how important his offensive line is to him as well. He’s never publicly criticized his line after games he was sacked and tossed around like a rag doll, and he was the main lobbyer for the return of Max Starks, who has surprised everyone with his comeback and solidified a line that looked horrid in the beginning of the season. But Ben doesn’t publicly criticize his line, his coordinator, his head coach, or anyone else but himself. It seems cheesy, but that kind of thing is important to the continuity of a locker room.
Steeler fans be thankful that you don’t have a situation like the one in New York where Rex Ryan gave senior citizen Mark Brunell (who is actually old enough to be Mark Sanchez’s father) some reps with the first team in practice in order to light a fire under his underachieving starter. Or a situation like the one in Denver where Tim Tebow is inexplicably winning games but openly criticized by John Elway in the front office. Also be
thankful for Charlie Batch. Steeler fans can be confident that if Ben couldn’t play we would be nowhere near as screwed as the Colts are playing without Peyton Manning for the season.
So Steeler Nation, today as you stuff your face with all the goodies on the table and unbutton your pants while hopefully watching Green Bay, Dallas, and the Ratbirds lose, be thankful for Big Ben. Be thankful that he’s not a douchebag anymore, that he takes a beating and jumps right back in there, and that he has two separate and distinct eyebrows at all times. Happy Thanksgiving and Go Steelers!
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