11.14.2007

Durability Issues Arise As Protection Lacks

The P-G reports that Ben Roethlisberger will sit out practice today with an assortment of ailments, from continued pain from the hip bruise he suffered against the Ravens along with a hurt shoulder. Though his status isn't in doubt for Sunday, there has to be a mounting concern for what shape Ben is going to be at the end of the season given the consistent abuse his style of play and the lack of protection makes him endure.

If Ben has showed anything thus far in his career, it's the willingness to play through pain, even if foolishly. He's not going to change his style of play, which exposes him to taking his share of licks, but improved pass protection could go a long way to extending the prime of what is proving to be a top-5 passer.

Beyond even this season, there has to some worry for the longterm ramifications for the this kind of abuse. I'm not suggesting the Steelers need to try to turn him into a purely pocket passer or dissuade him from tucking and running, as we've seen repeatedly that these are some of the strongest parts of his game. But repeatedly, I'm reminded of the cautionary tale that is Daunte Culpepper, a quarterback, who in his prime, had similar stature and mobility to what Ben has now. It seems that the shelf life for big quarterbacks who can take and shake off a lot of big hits isn't that long and that the drop-off comes fairly suddenly. Obviously, Culpepper's decline was precipitated by major knee surgery but sustained exposure to oncoming rushers isn't the way to avoid that.

This is all to say nothing of Willie Parker having to miss a practice the last two weeks, including today, because of an inflamed knee. Willie has proved that he can last the rigors of a full season, but any problems with a knee are a huge red flag. Parker rushed fine on Sunday, but I can't imagine having to cut on the divotastic turf of Heinz Field was helping matters much.

2 comments:

Cotter said...

A. All QBs need solid protection. It's no secret. The Steelers need to address this in next year's draft or Ben is F'd.

B. If Willie goes down, I have serious concerns about the feasibility of a playoff run. Najeh's no slouch, but if he's forced to shoulder a full load, I'm not sure he'll be as effective as we need him to be.

Joey Porter’s Pit Bulls said...

The quagmire that is the turf at Heinz Field is a disgrace. It will be on national TV in all its glory during the Monday night game against Miami ... following a weekend of Pitt football and WPIAL high school playoffs, marching bands and all.

If the Steelers lose a key player to injury because of that slop ...