It's been a remarkable off-season for Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Fresh off completing his final college term paper on Tibet, graduating with a class of students who wondered what the hell he was doing at their graduation ceremony, learning a complex new playbook that was even harder to comprehend than his final college term paper on Tibet, taking a golf trip to Ireland in order to sharpen his mind, pushing himself through countless mental reps on the practice field, and coming up with a name for his unborn child, Big Ben is more focused headed into this NFL season than perhaps ever before. So invested is Ben in the battles to come that for the first time ever, he has decided to grace us with a Steelers Season Preview. New man, older body, indeed. Ladies, gentlemen, if you're ready, here's Ben.
Read on for Ben's breakdown of the roster and the Steelers' schedule.
Let me begin my remarks by saying I am NOT MISSING THE BIRTH OF MY CHILD. I am, however, thrilled to be leading all of you on this journey to New Orleans, site of Super Bowl XLIV. I've already won two super bowls, I am about to break every one of Terry Bradshaw's team passing records, and I am at the absolute peak of my leadership powers. Sometimes for the pregame coin toss, you may have noticed that the opponent will send out like three or four captains, and I'll just jog out there alone with my baseball cap on backwards. It makes a statement. I keep it casual, and I keep it humble.
Fortunately, my men on the offensive side of the ball are maybe the most talented we've had since Plax, 'Tone, Hines, and Willie lined up together. Start with the receivers. Obviously Mike Wallace's speed is a huge weapon, even though it's still an open question as to whether he can catch the ball consistently. Also, he may have no idea what the plays are. Then there's Sanders. Don't sleep on Emanuel. He's got silky hands, smooth routes, and a sensual moniker. Ashley and I will sometimes curl up on the couch and read the erotic novel of the same name. I don't want to make the young man uncomfortable or anything, but that's just the way it is. 'Cotch? As a 4th wideout? He makes this the deepest position on the team. 'Tonio? I'd like to see him be a little more solicitous of his elders. I asked him to carry my helmet and shoulder pads to and from the practice field in camp each day, and he was all like, "You're just pissed that I got voted team MVP," and I was like, "You're out of line, Private! You are way out of line!" I wasn't even aware than he was named team MVP even though I threw for 4,000 yards and carried the team on my back, fighting through injuries and what have you. That kind of thing isn't on my radar screen. Anyway. We're working with him, trying to get better.
The running backs are all of a sudden a fairly deep group in their own right. With Rashard on the mend, there is no lead dog, but look, this is now a quote-unquote "passing league." Ike can churn out those runs between the tackles, and I have a feeling this kid Dwyer is more than just a preseason sensation. Have you seen Cadet Rainey? The young man is a flash play waiting to happen. I do have a mild concern that Ray Lewis will lift him up and break his whole body like Bane did in the Batman movie. But we'll cross that bridge. As for Barron Batch, I can't remember if he made the team. Ashley is googling it.
All praise be to my offensive line. I was saddened to see DeCastro go down, because that kid is a monster. I was equally if not more saddened to see that Mike Adams looks like a poor man's Trai Essex. Sometimes things don't turn out how you think they will, but God always has a plan. And His plan for this season appears to be for me to get sacked 57 times. My trusted lieutenant Willie "I'll guard the bathroom door" Colon is back healthy, but now playing guard instead of tackle. Lord I'll miss having him take multiple false start penalties on the outside of the line. Maurkice is back holding down the middle. You got your Ramon taking over for your DeCastro. Max Starks, another veteran soldier, is back, making the league minimum for playing the second most important position in football. Gilbert. Legursky. Who am I missing? Yep, I'm going to get killed.
Ashley confirms that Barron Batch made the team. Thanks, angel. Heath Miller is also still on the team, just FYI.
I know some of you may be wondering, what happens when I am not marching these men down the field, getting blindsided by Haloti Ngata, standing up slowly and shaking my throwing hand, completing a touchdown pass and then limping into the locker room tunnel ahead of the halftime whistle? That's where the defense comes in. And I'll be honest, I have no idea if the standard is really the standard on that side of the ball. No James Farrior, no Aaron Smith, a gimpy James Harrison, and, let's be candid, they may have to roll Casey Hampton out on that field. Brett Keisel is supposed to be the new leader of that unit? Key seems more interested in camera time than anything else. And I can't shake the feeling that Troy is on borrowed time right now. There's a heavy price to pay for being brilliantly reckless or recklessly brilliant. There are reasons to be hopeful: Steve McClendon impressed me this summer, as did our young corners. But all this talk from the men about this defense being historically great? Folks, trust me, I know puffery when I see it. There is highly questionable depth here, and it could get ugly real quick. I can lead from the sidelines, but these men will have to hold the line on the field.
They say special teams are 30% of the game, but we fired our special teams coach like two weeks ago for no discernible reason, so I have to believe they're wrong. I mourn for you Daniel Sepulveda.
Having said all that, there is one thing that can make up for a whole lot of deficiencies on a football roster, and I think you all know what I'm talking about.
How is it all going to play out? Let's run through the schedule.
Week 1 at Denver Broncos
No Tim Tebow means the Lord has no conflict in Denver. Still, we're a bit banged up. 'Shard out, Ike with groin issues, James is breaking down, Ryan Clark out with a sickle cell. If our injury list looks like this in Week 1, we may not even get to play meaningful Dee-cember football. Maybe Peyton will be a little rusty. Or maybe he'll just dissect a defense counting on Chris Carter for a pass rush. Denver 24, Steelers 20.
Week 2 New York Jets
One thing I can tell you about this match-up: it's going to be one heck of a post-game prayer circle. Me, 'Tonio, Tebow, hopefully Kate Upton. I can't wait. Steelers 17, Jets 14.
Week 3 at Oakland Raiders
I suggest for this game that we have all the men wear Kimo Von Oelhoffen jerseys. Steelers 26, Raiders 17.
Week 4 Bye
Why do we always have our bye week so early? I feel like it's always Week 4. Don't get me wrong, I will be hurt by this point, but still.
Week 5 Philadelphia Eagles
I won't practice at all during the bye week and I'll be listed as doubtful on the injury report. Coach will declare at his Tuesday press conference that whether I'll play will be "dependent on how he performs on the practice field from that standpoint and what we're looking for him to be capable of performance-wise and things of that nature." I will declare immediately after that press conference, "I'm playing." I will gut out practice on Thursday -- praise be to God -- and lead my men against Mike Vick. Eagles 15, Steelers 9.
Week 6 at Tennessee Titans
I think Nate is still on Tennessee. And my people have a call into Hines's people to get Hines into the locker room before this game to remind my guys about the time they stepped on the Terrible Towel. Steelers 31, Titans 14
Week 7 at Cincinnati Bengals
When I was in Ireland with my buddies, my sponsor made me go to a psychic and she told me that I will miss the 2nd quarter of this game to have x-rays on my ribs, and when I get back to the sideline after halftime I will get in a shouting match with Coach Haley because he will want me to wear the flak-jacket. I hope there aren't cameras around. Steelers 19, Bengals 16.
Week 8 Washington Redskins
We fall behind in this one, as I throw a couple of first half picks on account of running around out of the pocket, just trying to make some things happen. At halftime, Coach Haley accuses me of trying to outdo RGIII. Now, I never try to show up a commanding officer, but I feel like I'm in need of a lifeline at this point. So I take out my phone and call up B.A. Well, Coach Haley goes ballistic. I go out in the second half and bring us back with 4 touchdown passes. Then I dump a bucket of ice water on Coach Haley. Winning smooths over a lot of rough moments. Steelers 35, Redskins 24.
Week 9 at New York Giants
I injure my left foot in a freak lawnmower accident before the game, which is hard to explain because it's November. In any event, my foot is purple and bloated, and the men in the training room outfit me with a cast, covered by a walking boot, covered by another cast. This is good timing, as Cadet Mike Adams is making his first pro start in place of Max Starks, who is out with a calf. This is a great experience for the young man. All grist for the mill, as they say. Jason Pierre-Paul hits me 32 times, but only gets 6 sacks. Giants 19, Steelers 3.
Week 10 Kansas City Chiefs
Our D is really banged up this week. Lamar is out with a quad, Troy is sidelined with a head, and Ryan came down with an elbow. Ryan Mundy is playing both safety positions. Chiefs 30, Steelers 17.
Week 11 Baltimore Ravens
If we lose this one, we're three back of the Ravens with 6 to play. Ngata gets me with a late hit below the knee in the first quarter. I need my guys to lift me off the turf, I'm limping badly, but I'm fine, no really, I'm fine, let's go! Hurry-up offense! We're deadlocked at 10 in the locker room at halftime. That's when I get the call. Ashley is in labor! THERE IS NO WAY I'M MISSING THE BIRTH OF MY CHILD. I hop on my bike in full uniform, and a full squadron of police escorts me to Magee Hospital. 12 minutes later, Leadership B.A. Roethlisberger is born.
What a miracle. Blessings all around. I return to the huddle to rapturous applause down 6 with two minutes to go in the game. Six plays and 86 yards later.....Leadership 17, Ravens 16.
Week 12 at Cleveland Browns
Still riding that Leadership high. Steelers 45, Browns 10.
Week 13 at Baltimore Ravens
My legs are bent at a 90-degree angle behind my torso by a Ngata-Ray Lewis sandwich. I walk off the field under my own power, using only my arms. X-rays are negative, and I am back for the 3rd quarter, but limited to an army crawl. Every play is essentially a fumble, because Maurkice has to drop the ball into my waiting palms as I lay on the turf. Still, Coach sticks with me. I am so appreciative. Ravens 28, Steelers 9.
Week 14 San Diego Chargers
I thought this would be a good time to bring Leadership to his first game. Having him in that huddle with me is one of the most special moments of my life. I let AB take him in motion, then lateral him to Ike. The defense is so confused. I look for Ashley in the crowd and see the look in her eye, which is one of abject horror. Steelers 31, Chargers 23.
Week 15 at Dallas Cowboys
DeMarcus Ware races untouched between Ramon and Cadet Adams and plants me into the turf early, severely spraining my right shoulder. I simply switch throwing arms. Still, it isn't quite enough, as Kevin Ogletree goes for 13 catches for 247 yards and 3 touchdowns. Dallas 27, Steelers 24.
Week 16 Cincinnati Bengals
We desperately need these last two games to secure a wild card berth. Unfortunately, my bruised ribs, sprained shoulder, hyper-extended legs, busted foot, and severely infected molar have me on the shelf. I tell Coach I can go, but he's like, "Ben, we're talking about Cincinnati and Cleveland, teams of that nature." I can't really argue with that. Steelers 21, Bengals 17.
Week 17 Cleveland Browns
Things with me and Coach Haley sort of come to a head when I grab the headphones and start calling in plays. There is some shouting and cussing, and the men are holding us back, and the play on the field stops as everyone turns to watch, and then, suddenly, that song "Proud to be an American" comes booming out of the stadium loudspeakers. I look up and see B.A. sprinting out of the locker room to stand by my side. Just in time for the playoffs. Look out now. Steelers 27, Browns 0.