Steelers without Ben; Pittsburgh Dad @ Heinz; defending the fans, Roethlisbaby?

Written by Dan Gigler on .

Ben Roethlisberger looking on from the sidelines is not an image Steelers fans want to get used to seeing this season.
Since he became the team's full-time, franchise quarterback as a rookie in 2004, the Steelers have faced the Baltimore Ravens four times without Ben Roethlisberger.

And all four times, they've lost.

Obviously, that doesn't bode well for Pittsburgh for Sunday night.

Each of those losses featured three a different backup quarterbacks; each of those teams different in character vis-a-vis the point they were at in the season and how they would end up the year. And the Baltimore teams were quite different year-to-year as well.

But the one constant -- no Roethlisberger -- led to the same results: losses to Baltimore.

A recap:

maddox_shameNov. 20, 2005 -- Ravens 16 Steelers 13 (OT): The 7-2 Steelers went on the road to 2-7 Baltimore in Week 11. Roethlisberger had missed two previous games with knee injuries, but the steady hand of Charlie Batch and an outstanding defense guided Pittsburgh to victories. But Batch also was hurt for this game, and Tommy Maddox made his last ever start for the Steelers.

Maddox was a pretty average 19/36 for 230 yds. with 1 TD and 1 INT in a game dominated by defense by both teams.

Roethlisberger would return the next week, but the Steelers were shellacked by Indianapolis on the road on Monday night, then dropped what seemed to be season-breaking game to Cincinnati at home the next week, lowering their record to 7-5. They would not lose again for the rest of the season, as the team won its first Super Bowl in 26 years. The Ravens finished 6-10.

Dec. 30, 2007 -- Ravens 27 Steelers 21: A division title clinched, the Steelers went on the road for a relatively meaningless game against Baltimore with Charlie Batch starting, and Roethlisberger resting. This game was of little consequence.

dixon_ravensNov. 29, 2009 -- Ravens 20 Steelers 17 (OT): A season that started with great promise and hopes of back-to-back Super Bowl victories was in the midst of unraveling when Roethlisberger missed a week 12 game in Baltimore after sustaining a concussion in a loss the prior week against Kansas City.

With Batch hurt and Leftwich on IR, Dennis Dixon would make his first career start and acquitted himself fairly well, going 12-26 with a touchdown pass and run, but an INT in overtime sealed the Steelers' fate.

The loss dropped the Steelers to 6-5. They would lose two more in the when Mike Tomlin's infamous unleashing of Hell in Decemeber didn't quite go as planned. Ultimately the Steelers would finish the season with a three-game win streak to get to 9-7 but miss the playoffs. Baltimore also finished 9-7 and upset New England on the road in an AFC Wild Card game before losing the next week at eventual conference champion Indianapolis.

chaz_ravensOct. 3, 2010 -- Ravens 17 Steelers 14: The 3-0 Steelers met the 2-1 Ravens at Heinz Field and with Roethlisberger serving the last week of a well-publicized four-game suspension, Charlie Batch got the start and appeared to have a narrow victory in hand late in the fourth quarter for Pittsburgh.

However, backed up in their own end the Steelers needed to convert a first down to put the game on ice and couldn't, instead punting to Baltimore with just over a minute left. Joe Flacco promptly moved his team down the field and hit T.J. Houshmanzedah for a touchdown with 32 seconds left. On the Steelers subsequent possession, Batch threw an interception.

The Steelers -- with Roethlisberger -- would go on to win the week 13 rematch, and the AFC North. Both teams finished 12-4, and the Steelers and Ravens would play a third time in the AFC Divisional game. The Steelers won, and would go on to lose Super Bowl XLV.

The Steelers record against the Ravens when Roethlisberger does start: 7-5 regular season, 2-0 postseason.

Terry Bradshaw used to say, "You can lose with me, but you can't win without me."

Clearly the same is true of Roethlisberger when it comes to the Ravens.

Should Charlie Batch be Ben's backup against Baltimore?
*** The Steelers are 86-36 in the regular season with Roethlisberger starting. Here are the records of Ben's backups:

Charlie Batch: 5-2 (played majority of 2010 win over Tenn., but did not start)

Dennis Dixon: 2-1 (started, but left game early in 2010 win over Tenn.)

Tommy Maddox:1-2

Byron Leftwich has never started a game for the Steelers. His only significant action as a Steelers came in relief of Roethlisberger in the 2008 season. Most of that was mop-up time, though he played the entire second half at Washington, preserving a game against the Redskins. His last start came early in the 2009 season while with Tampa.

*** A rundown of all the Steelers games without Roethlisbeger as starter, since he supplanted Tommy Maddox in Sept. 2004:

Jan. 2, 2005 @ Buffalo: 29-24 win (Maddox)

Oct. 16, 2005 vs. Jax: 23-17 OT loss (Maddox)

Nov. 6, 2005 @ Green Bay: 20-10 win (Batch)

Nov. 13, 2005 vs. Cleveland: 34-21 win (Batch)

Nov. 20, 2005 @ Baltimore: 16-13 OT loss (Maddox)

Sept. 7, 2006 vs. Miami: 28-17 win (Batch)

Dec. 30, 2007 @ Baltimore: 27-21 loss (Batch)

Nov. 29, 2009 @ Baltimore: 20-17 OT loss (Dixon)

Sept. 12, 2010 vs. Atlanta:15-9 OT win (Dixon)

Sept. 19, 2010 @ Tenn.: 19-11 win (Dixon starts, Batch takes over in 2nd quarter)

Sept. 26, 2010 @ Tampa: 38-13 win (Batch)

Oct. 3, 2010 vs. Baltimore: 17-14 loss (Batch)

Dec 24, 2011 vs. St. Louis: 27-0 win (Batch)

*** New Pittsburgh Dad today -- at a Steelers game:

*** On the subject of another soon-to-be dad -- Benstonium's take on the sonogram of Baby Roethlisberger:


*** There was some discussion on various talk radio and online/social media outlets about the copious number of no-shows and early leavers at last night's game. Indeed, the announced attendance of 57,644 was the lowest at Heinz Field this season by almost 5,000 people, and the lowest since a Dec. 2010 win over Cincinnati in similarly cold, rainy conditions.

Homemade throwback jersey atop rain gear was the way to go on Monday night.
I've attended nearly every single regular season home Steelers game in the Heinz Field era as a spectator and this was easily among the most miserable I can remember. I've been to regular season games that were much colder (Thursday night vs. Cleveland in Dec. 2006) much rainier (the Monday night monsoon vs. Miami in 2007) and much windier (vs. Cleveland in 2008). But Monday night's game might have been the most perfectly miserable combination of all three.

Though the kickoff temperature was 45 degrees, it dropped the entire night, while the blowing rain turned first to sleet, then to snow. It was four quarters of bone soaking and chilling irritation and that doesn't even include the game, which was mostly lousy. 

Throw in the fact that it was a Monday night game -- which lost its cachet decades ago and are annoying to attend as a fan, much more than Thursday night games -- against a bad opponent, and you have all the makings for fans to stay away in droves or head home early.

If you stayed, good for you. If you left, you're probably smarter than those who stayed. If you had a ticket and didn't go, that's a total waste of money, but its your prerogative.

But don't for a second let any media member who watched the game in heated environs behind glass, or fans watching from the comforts of home lecture you about literally being a fair-weather fan. There was nothing compelling about that game and the weather only made it worse. Unless it was your first time at Heinz Field -- or you had one heckuva tailgate party -- this was not fun to attend on any level, and had none of the novelty of a game in a blizzard, or even the aforementioned 3-0 monsoon (which was 17 degrees warmer at kickoff) 

Finally, its worth noting that unlike baseball and hockey, NFL teams do an actual turnstile count of attendees, not tickets sold. And unlike college football teams, they don't heavily inflate their numbers by including the players of both teams, employees, security, etc.

*** Finally, a nice shot of the Veteran's Day card stunt done before last night's game, courtesy of Mr. Brendan P. Sherry, of Canonsburg:


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