Throughout the entire offseason there is going to be a lot of debate about Ben Roethlisberger;s role in taking the blame for the demise of the 2011-12 Pittsburgh Steelers. A lot of that blame will also fall into the lap of Mike Tomlin for not taking a stand when the playoffs were already clinched and it was more important to play the "franchise quarterback" rather than to keep him rested down the stretch run of the season.
Roethlisberger should have not played in the game against the San Francisco 49ers a few weeks ago as that healing process for that ankle would have ultimately been healed in plenty of time for the playoffs. He also should have been kept out of the week 17 game against the Cleveland Browns as that was the day that he further aggravated that injury.
Bill Cowher was very vocal about criticizing that decision during halftime and he has a very good point. Had Roethlisberger been at 100% his ability to make big plays would have come a lot easier against the Broncos. As Shannon Sharpe said, it would be better to have a 100% Ben Roethlisberger on the road rather than a bye week with an injured Ben Roethlisberger.
Had Tomlin put in Charlie Batch in San Francisco and Cleveland the team could have responded as they did on Christmas Eve, but we will never know. There are 53-men on a roster for a reason, that is why there is training camp and the failure of this decision is what played a major role in the demise of this offense.
When Roethlisberger played on that bad wheel towards the end of the season he was unable to drive the team to scoring touchdowns and turned the ball over repeatedly, while Batch was more than efficient in his play against the Rams. Roethlisberger's mechanical issues caused by that bad leg had passes flying where they weren't supposed to go and it hindered the offense. This was the case in the first half against the Broncos.
It's great that Roethlisberger is willing to go to battle in a big game hobbled and wounded but is it not the head coaches job to put in the quarterback that gives the team the best chance to win. Tomlin didn't intervene in the San Francisco game when Roethlisberger was asked if Batch should go in and Roethlisberger said no, and he didn't intervene when Roethlisberger should have been taken out in the Browns game when the score was 6-6 and the Ravens were winning. Thus the Steelers would have had no shot at claiming the AFC North Division.
It is easy now to place the blame on Tomlin as the facts are written, but this will be one of the first mark's against Tomlin in his first five season as the Steelers head coach. The question has to be asked, is Roethlisberger's ego too big for Tomlin to make a team oriented decision? We will never know. We will also never know how this season would have unfolded if Roethlisberger would have entered the playoffs at 100%.
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