PITTSBURGH @ SAN FRANCISCO
It was a calculated risk. After the Baltimore Ravens dropped a game in San Diego, the Steelers decision to play Ben Roethlisberger was all about taking destiny in their own hands as well as the division lead. It was a bad one. The pundits are saying that any Ben Roethlisberger was better than the other options the Steelers had. This game hearkened me back to a previous Bay Area game in 2007 when Roethlisberger returned early from an appendectomy, only to throw four interceptions in a 20-13 loss. Limited by his lack of movement and agility, Roethlisberger's passing ability was grounded and the Steelers gained little by his playing except a risk of his greater injury. As it turned out, the Steelers gained exactly the same yesterday, and no one knows what the effect was yesterday. Hindsight may be 20-20, but exactly why are NFL teams employing second and third string quarterbacks if their intention is to sit them in the exact situations for which they're being paid. Not only that, I saw Dennis Dixon fully dressed Monday night. Wasn't this the same Dennis Dixon that led the Steelers to a 3-1 record while the rapscallion Roethlisberger was serving a four games suspension? Wasn't this the Dennis Dixon that his chance at a perfect 4-0 ended in only the final seconds of the game against Baltimore? This is a case of either seriously bad player assessment or bad coaching. If Charlie Batch is worse than another four turnover day from Big Ben, then why is he being paid hundred of thousands of dollars? For advice? Out of loyalty? It is dismaying to say the least. If you're Pittsburgh, I can understand wanting the first round bye and playing for such, but it didn't take a football analyst to see how hobbled Roethlisberger was prior to kickoff. If the Steelers were too worried that neither Batch or Dixon could play in this regular season match up, just what does that say about them if Ben's ankle injury worsens and he misses a playoff game. Not exactly a ringing endorsement. In the meanwhile, one has to recognize the greatness of the San Francisco rush defense this year after 14 games without a single rushing touchdown. It still would take great effort to keep Seattle's Marshawn Lynch and/or the Ram's Steven Jackson from being the first. And just for fun, check out my prediction on Frank Gore's output for this game.... I said 16 for 67 and a score. Scarily, he had 18 for 65 and a score. Maybe I should buy a lotto ticket.