Bill Cowher will be making a mistake if he starts Ben Roethlisberger tonight against the Jaguars. Roethlisberger has reportedly looked good this week, but he hasn't been taking any real hits in practice. He would take real hits against Jacksonville's D, which has had success against Pittsburgh. Who knows how that fresh scar would hold up against Marcus Stroud's helmet?
Last week we learned Charlie Batch is good enough to win an ugly game for the Steelers, so save Roethlisberger for next week's divisional tilt against the Bengals, a team he's done well against.
Roethlisberger is clearly itching to play and he does give the Steelers a better shot at winning. But the Steelers need to look at the big picture and take their chances with Batch for one more week. If anything were to happen to Big Ben, Pittsburgh could forget about repeating.
Since Cowher is unlikely to call me for my opinion, I will assume Roethlisberger will be out there tonight. But I still won't pick Pittsburgh. The Jags stuffed Willie Parker last year (55 yards on 21 carries), and the Steelers are usually a mess after their run game slows down. That means they'll have to rely even more on Roethlisberger, which isn't smart this week.
The Jags need to take advantage of the tall receiving corps of Matt Jones, Ernest Wilford and Reggie Williams against a smallish Steelers secondary that looked vulnerable against Miami in Week 1. Jacksonville may be hesitant to throw because of Pittsburgh's pass rush, but all Byron Leftwich needs to do is get it up in the air and his receivers will do the work.
I also am concerned about the Steelers' lines wearing down in the Florida heat. It's supposed to stay steamy into the night and we saw the Cowboys melt in the same situation last week.