The latest news out of Pittsburgh is that Roethlisberger’s season is in jeopardy as a result of the dislocation of his first rib. The rib has the potential to puncture his aorta, a potentially dangerous situation that may keep him off of the field until the rib is fully healed, something that may not happen for six weeks.
The fate of the AFC North may be decided Sunday night in Pittsburgh when the Baltimore Raven head to the steel city to take on the Steelers. The Raven hold a modest lead in the division at 7-3, while Pitt is looked poised to overtake them at 6-3 and having won four straight games. However, they’ll have to keep up their streak without their most important player.
According to FOX Sports reporter Jay Glazer, Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger will not play Sunday. Ben sprained his right shoulder on Monday night, and it’s now unclear as to when he’ll be medically cleared to play again.
Byron Leftwich will start for first time since 2009. His career record as a starter is 24-25, and his passer rating is 82.7 with two touchdowns and one interception in his two career starts vs. the Ravens.
If Ben misses a significant amount of time during a span of games in which the Steelers will play the Ravens twice, as well as the San Diego Chargers, Cleveland Browns, and Dallas Cowboys, it’s a very realistic scenario that the Bengals and Steelers enter their Week 16 matchup in Pittsburgh within one game of each other. As of now, at 4-5, the Bengals are set to play the Chiefs, Raiders, Cowboys, Eagles, and Chargers in that same span. With two game separating the AFC North rivals, it’s very possible that the Bengals will have a chance to overtake the Steelers for their wild card playoff spot. If the Steelers struggle significantly the rest of the year, they could fall out of the playoff picture completely, leaving a team like the Indianapolis Colts (6-3) to secure a playoff spot.
Here is the latest AFC standings of the top 9 teams:
|AFC Team||W||L||T||%||TD||Home||Road||Division||Conference||Non-Conf||Streak||Last 5|
|3.||New England Patriots||6||3||0||.667||34||3-1||3-2||3-0||5-1||1-2||3W||4-1|
|7.||San Diego Chargers||4||5||0||.444||23||2-2||2-3||3-1||4-2||0-3||1L||1-4|
The Chargers are another team in prime position to decide their postseason fate, as they play the Ravens, Steelers, and Bengals, three teams currently ahead of them in the standings. Given their ineptness under Norv Turner late in NFL seasons, don’t expect to see them make too much noise.
The Steelers have firm control of one of the two wild card spots, and if they can mange to defeat the Ravens on Sunday with Leftwhich as their QB, not only will they all but lock up a playoff berth, but put themselves in the river’s seat to claim the AFC North crown. If they however falter and Big Ben misses more games, they could find themselves at home for the postseason.