The Pittsburgh Steelers have proven they can win without their stars.
Troy Polamalu. James Harrison. LaMarr Woodley. Antonio Brown. The list of familiar faces forced to watch the Steelers play from the sidelines this season is lengthy and littered with Pro Bowl selections and Super Bowl rings.
Yet Pittsburgh has survived by living up to “the standard is the standard” ethos set forth by coach Mike Tomlin. No matter the position, player or circumstances, the Steelers always seem to find a way to get by.
Until now anyway.
The two-game losing streak Pittsburgh (6-5) rides into Sunday’s game at Baltimore has done more than push the Steelers to the fringe of the AFC North race, it’s shown that on a team of interchangeable parts there remains an indispensable one.
Since the team’s franchise quarterback went down with a sprained shoulder and dislocated rib in the third quarter against Kansas City on Nov. 12, the offense that hummed so efficiently with Roethlisberger’s No. 7 taking the snaps has turned into the Keystone Kops.
Interceptions. Fumbles. Penalties. The flaws Roethlisberger’s right arm so capably covered up during arguably the best start of his career have been exposed in the team’s first losing skid in three years.
“It’s disgusting, and it’s not something that we’re all about here,” said Brown, who expects to return after missing three games with an ankle injury. “Hopefully, I can help bring back some order to this team.”
Something that’s been in short supply since Roethlisberger walked into the tunnel on that cold, wet Monday night against the Chiefs, his right shoulder throbbing and a dislocated rib coming dangerously close to his aorta.