Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Ben Roethlisberger's bizarre rib injury is latest piece of Steelers turmoil heading into big Patriots game

Alex Reimer
December 12, 2018 - 9:54 am

The Steelers are the only contender that suffered a worse defeat than the Patriots last week. Pittsburgh dropped its third straight game Sunday, falling to the Raiders in Oakland. The Black and Gold blew two fourth quarter leads and head coach Mike Tomin and Ben Roethlisberger keep giving different stories about why the quarterback didn’t return from a rib injury until they were trailing. 

The whole situation is a dumpster fire, which makes it perfectly appropriate for the Steelers. This team has a habit of falling apart every season, but this year they’re taking the ineptitude to comic heights.

The latest chapter of Steelers’ Collapse Circa 2018 is centered around Big Ben’s ailing ribcage. He injured his ribs late in the second quarter and was held out until there was 5:20 remaining in the game, even though he underwent X-Rays at halftime. Roethlisberger only entered the contest after the Raiders had scored a touchdown and took a three-point lead.

He proceeded to move the Steelers down the field for a tidy six-play touchdown drive. But Pittsburgh’s defense gave up another touchdown to the Raiders on their following series, which effectively ended the game. 

Afterwards, Roethlisberger suggested he was ready to come back, but Tomlin held him out. “I was just waiting for the coach to tell me when to go,” he told The Athletic.

Tomlin sort of supported Roethlisberger’s claim, saying his franchise quarterback probably could’ve returned to the game earlier, but he didn’t want to disturb the “rhythm and flow” of the Joshua Dobbs experience. Pittsburgh’s backup QB went 4-of-9 for 24 yards and one interception. 

Predictably, Tomlin got skewered for his strange decision to keep one of the greatest quarterbacks ever on the sidelines while somebody named Joshua Dobbs threw incomplete passes. So this week, the maligned Steelers head coach has changed his story. Now, Tomlin is blaming the antiquated MRI machine in Oakland’s anachronistic stadium. 

“We got the result of the X-rays, they weren’t readable,” he said at a press conference.

In a rare moment of quarterback-coach unity, Roethlisberger reiterated Tomlin’s story in his weekly radio show. “The X-ray was inconclusive, I believe, because the machine was old,” he explained.

So there you go. Roethlisberger didn’t play until the end of the second half, because the medical equipment at Oakland Coliseum is lousy. As a result, the 7-5-1 Steelers are only ahead of the Ravens in the AFC North by percentage points. (Roethlisberger also won't practice Wednesday, though he is expected to play Sunday.) 

It’s been a horrific stretch for the Steelers, who seem to experience their own “Miami Miracle” on a regular basis. One week, Roethlisberger throws a game-losing interception on the goal line. The following week, they blow a 16-point lead at home to the Chargers, allowing a punt return touchdown and going offsides three times on the eventual game-winning kick. 

Meanwhile, Roethlisberger continues to publicly chastising his teammates. He blamed his costly pick against the Broncos on Antonio Brown’s route-running. 

Though the Patriots are an atrocious defensive team on the road –– they’re allowing 25.1 points per game and 402.1 yards per game away from Gillette Stadium –– and the Steelers have lots of weapons, it seems like Pittsburgh is destined to keep imploding. The gaffes that plagued the Patriots Sunday have been tormenting the Steelers for nearly the last month. And they can’t stop it.

Speaking of which, Tomlin’s defenses have never been able to stop Brady. TB12 is 7-1 with a 70-percent completion rate, 2,500 yards and 23 touchdowns in his career against the Steelers’ coach. And boneheaded sack aside, Brady played perhaps his best game of the season Sunday. 

History says the Patriots can beat the Steelers in a big game without any help. But Pittsburgh appears poised to provide it.