x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Life without Big Ben for Steelers

The suspended Roethlisberger loves to be the guy who gets his team out of trouble, throws the big touchdown pass, makes the play that changes a season.

PITTSBURGH // Ben Roethlisberger loves to be the guy who gets his team out of trouble, throws the big touchdown pass, makes the play that changes a season. Only this time, Roethlisberger cannot bail the Steelers out of a predicament he put them in. Instead of being the leader who rallies his teammates during tough times, he cannot even talk to them about football as he serves a four-game suspension for off-field misconduct.

His team captaincy? That is gone, too. The Steelers knew for months Roethlisberger would be absent when the season began, but the reality of his punishment struck them as they reported for practice this week and found his locker vacant. "We've been anticipating this moment for some time, planning and so forth," Mike Tomlin, the coach, said. "There's not any last-minute adjustment. It's just more about dealing with it."

What they are dealing with is an awkward, unenviable situation that could force the Steelers to adopt a late-season, win-or-else mentality in September. The months of turmoil Roethlisberger created with his indiscretions ultimately may be viewed in the context of what the Steelers do during their month of uncertainty without him. Should they thrive with the playmaking Dennis Dixon at quarterback and get off to a fast start, the impact of Roethlisberger's missteps may be relatively minimal.

Tomlin was even noncommittal when asked during a radio interview if Roethlisberger would become the starter if he returned to a surging team. "I'm going to dodge that question, not even artfully," he said. However, if the Steelers flop with their No 3 quarterback in charge - their No. 2 is injured and out - Roethlisberger might be remembered as the man who brought down a season before it started. * Associated Press