With the way this year is going, it looks like 2016-17 sports season is indeed the year of the underdog. And the NFL is no exception, with the “team players” taking over the mantle of the “franchise players” – something that has greatly sent the bookies wondering on the NFL odds.
With Cam Newton struggling and the Panthers standing at 1-5 even as he was ranked number one in the league by his peers, and the New York Jets standing at 1-5 despite the presence of Darrelle Revis, the poster boy for pass defense, there are other, more successful teams whose success has nothing to do with the franchise players. Take for instance the Patriots who stand at 3-1 without Tom Brady, or the Cowboys who are 5-1 without Tony Romo. Not only them, despite star player J.J. Watt being placed on injured reserve as of last week, the Texans are marching on at 4-2. And then of course, we have the Vikings, who have been nothing short of successful despite the fact that both their franchise players Teddy Bridgewater and Adrian Peterson have been replaced.
And that begs the question, that what is it that actually differentiates franchises that have no “star player” than the ones that do but haven’t seen any success nonetheless? Now that’s one thing that the Steelers, who it seems are on the verge of disintegrating just might find out.
As Ben Roethlisberger, the team’s quarterback went into surgery to repair his knee which got injured during Sunday’s match in which the Steelers lost to the Dolphins by 30-15. While the team failed to say exactly when Roethlisberger would return, stating his injury to be “not long-term,” it can safely assumed that the man won’t be around for at least the next few games. Given that the trend this year is in favor of NFL teams that have no star player, many may assume that the Steelers too will be fine. However, in reality, their case couldn’t be more different. A team that hasn’t qualified past he playoffs’ second rounds after having lost the 2012 Super Bowl, Pittsburgh has no options or benefits available to them like the other franchises do.
While New England recently drafted Jacoby Brissett and Jimmy Garoppolo as quarterbacks for the 2nd and 3rd rounds to back-up Brady, Dallas has been very successful having picked Dak Prescott for the 4th round. Even Minnesota ended up trading a starting quarterback in a rather very scarce period. The Steelers, however have to option but to use Zach Mettenberger and Landry Jones even as they are moving into the toughest part of what remains of their schedule, which frankly is nothing short of a recipe for disaster.
The Steelers have three games on the horizon, two of which will be played hosting the Cowboys and the Patriots, and one in Baltimore against the Ravens. Standing at 4-2 after Sunday’s loss against the Dolphins (despite Roethlisberger playing for the largest part), the Steelers could find the third place their final spot, should if Roethlisberger’s training room vacation extend beyond next week’s game against the Patriots and the succeeding bye week.
Thanks to the absence of Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh is now left with a less-than-adequate defense that will prevent them from succeeding the way that New England, Minnesota, Houston and Dallas have. As of this date, the Steelers are 26th in yards per carry allowed, 28th in total yards allowed, and 29th in passing yards allowed. Although they do have other well-known players like Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, who are fantastic runners-back and receivers in their own right, they ultimately do not contribute much to the winning formula, so to speak. All these factors make Ben Roethlisberger their sole saving grace – something that goes against the trend of the season.
Unlike the other teams who have survived without franchise players, Pittsburgh has neither talent nor depth to survive in the highly-competitive arena. And given that Roethlisberger will be absent for at least a while, it seems that the Steelers now have a bad offense to match their bad defense. And while there is a solution – to draft better defensive players and do more to ensure themselves at quarterback, it is far too late for Pittsburgh make any corrections on that front. Therefore, all they can now do is to pray for Roethlisberger’s speedy recovery time, since their backups are not the kind of underdogs who can change the course of the game – in a good way of course.