UPDATE: The Steelers’ quarterback situation may be about to go from bad to horrific. After Leftwich struggled throughout much of last night’s game with a shoulder injury of his own, the Steelers are reportedly concerned he could be out “for a while,” according to Jason La Canfora. With Roethlisberger still expected to miss a few more weeks, they’ll likely workout and explore other quarterbacks this week, because there’s a possibly we’ll get a Charlie Batch sighting in Week 12 when Pittsburgh visits Cleveland. Choosing between either Batch or a limited Leftwich is certain fantasy death for Wallace, Brown (if he’s healthy), and Emmanuel Sanders.
Around these parts, our focus is primarily singular, or at least it is during the NFL season. Fantasy football and betting is our game, with a little bit of tape work on the side. Everything has a fantasy angle, even if it’s admittedly a loose, reaching one.
I’m writing those words almost apologetically at the beginning of a post in which the fantasy impact of Ben Roethlisberger’s injury will again be discussed briefly. Sometimes — well, oftentimes — life is a little more important than football, or fantasy football. That’s why we hopefully won’t see Big Ben for a while still, because nerve damage isn’t cool.
We saw what the Steelers offense looks like without Roethlisberger last night, and instead with Byron Leftwich under center. Leftwich actually held his own quite well, and he even ran for a career long 31-yard score in the first quarter. But we also saw exactly what we expected from the Leftwich sandwich: an inability to connect on the deep ball.
Now, in fairness he was likely hurt for much of the game, which restricted both his arm strength and his accuracy. But a 37-yard completion to Emmanuel Sanders was easily the exception, not the norm, as his longest pass out of his 17 other successful attempts was a 15 yarder. Roethlisberger, meanwhile, was averaging three +20 yard completions per game, which is a more ideal pace for the quarterback of a team with two burners in Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown. Wallace had only 26 yards yesterday on his four receptions.
So what comes next doesn’t bode well for the outlook of any and every Steelers receiver going forward. Sports Illustrated’s Peter King talked to a doctor who knows a thing or two about major rib injuries. The doc was speaking in generalities because he hasn’t examined Roethlisberger or looked at any x-rays, but vague speak in this case is still very scary speak.
According to Dr. Clark Fuller, the director of Thoracic Surgery at St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif., Roethlisberger has to be careful about returning too soon because of damage it can do to nerves in the right shoulder and arm, major blood vessels in the area, and, as Roethlisberger admitted last week, the aorta around the heart.
“This is not about being a tough guy,” said Fuller, who has neither examined Roethlisberger nor seen his X-rays or scans. So he made it clear he was speaking generally about the dislocation of the first rib, which is connected to the breast bone on one side and the spine on the other. A throwing motion, he said, would not allow the rib to heal, and he would not recommend it any time soon. “Playing football with a dislocated first rib would put you at severe risk. There are many things to be concerned about, including destroying the nerves in the arm.”
Destruction of nerves you say? Yeah, I’ll pass.
It’s becoming increasingly likely that we’ll see Leftwich and his elongated, rock chucking-like throwing motion that resulted in only 5.1 yards per attempt last night for an extended period.