We're at the mid-point of the season, and already certain teams have essentially put themselves in positions where they will not make the playoffs. It's at this point that I will begin my "Stick a Fork in Them" posts, which will continue from now until the Super Bowl. I leave out teams like San Francisco, Houston, Tennessee, Detroit, Green Bay, and Cleveland because those teams are still rebuilding. Every team mentioned in these posts was expected to compete for the playoffs, and now they are done. With each entry, I'll focus on a new team that is done. This week is the defending Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers.
One thing we do know after 8 weeks of football is a new champion will indeed get crowned this year, because the Pittsburgh Steelers are not making the playoffs, let alone winning another Super Bowl in 2006.
I do not post this to disrespect, in any way, the fine work the guys over at Behind the Steel Curtain are doing, but Pittsburgh is done. Finished. Over. The Steelers are 2-5 and have looked terrible all season long, especially QB Ben Roethlisberger. Roethlisberger now leads the league in INTs. Other than one game against the Chiefs at home, Big Ben has played like Tiny Tim. At some point, and that point is fastly approaching, Bill Cowher must consider benching Roethlisberger for Charlie Batch. Quite simply, Batch has outplayed Roethlisberger. Without Batch, the Steelers are 1-6. One has to wonder if the motorcycle injuries Roethlisberger suffered this past summer are affecting his play. I was highly critical of Roethlisberger for that stunt for the simple reason that it would affect his play in the 2006 season. Hate to say I told you so... but even the fine folks at Deadspin agree:
If Roethlisberger is not hurt, then it seems the last two years were flukes, and Big Ben is not the "winner" everyone thought he was. I think he is, and his careless accident this summer has cost his team a chance to repeat. I'm angry at Roethlisberger the way I am angry at Colts DT Montae Reagor, who was injured in a car accident because he didn't wear his seat belt. Being careless is one thing. Being stupid is another.
In any case, Roethlisberger is certainly not someone the Steelers should invest big money in next year when he is a free agent. He will ask for Manning-like money, and Mr. Rooney should laugh in his face when he does. QBs who want Manning money can't have the brains of a turnip. That said, Pittsburgh's 2-5 record isn't all Roethlisberger's fault. The once vaunted Pittsburgh defense is simply not as good as last year. Their running game misses Jerome Bettis. They miss Randle-El in the passing and return game. A team cannot afford to lose so many key players and expect to repeat as champions. The Steelers are a major disappointment, and though not all of it is Roethlisberger's fault, much of it can get traced to him. If the QB is throwing 11 INTs to only 6 TDs, fumbled twice, and has a Kordell Stewart-like QB rating of 70, the team is not going to win many games.
No one would begrudge Cowher if he benches Roethlisberger. This isn't like the Cowboys situation with Bledsoe and Romo. Roethlisberger is clearly hurt, and Batch gives them the best chance to win. However, regardless of who plays QB, this team is finished for 2006. Maybe they'll prove me wrong, but I doubt it. They've already lost to Cincy, and nothing on this team makes me think they can beat Baltimore. If Roethlisberger can throw 4 picks against the friggin' Raiders, he might set a league record throwing 50 picks in one game to the Ravens.
Stick a fork in the Steelers. They're done.