Now that Big Ben is officially Big Banned and with the NFL schedule being released, we can look ahead to see how the 2010-11 NFL season shapes up for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Roger Goodell officially handed down the six-game suspension for Roethlisberger on Wednesday.
The suspension is officially at six games but could be reduced to four games depending on Roethlisberger’s behavior. On top of the suspension there are also reports that the Steelers are listening to offers for their two-time winning franchise quarterback, although a trade remains highly unlikely.
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Prepared for the suspension, the Steelers traded a seventh-round draft pick for former backup Byron Leftwich, who was with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Leftwich is a proven starting quarterback and he is familiar with the Steelers’ offensive coordinator Bruce Arians from his time with the team in 2008.
Even with the suspension and trade talk and the trading of Santonio Holmes for basically nothing, the Steelers remain a favorite of Super Bowl futures, according to Las Vegas. Sportsbook.com has the Pittsburgh Steelers still listed at +1000 to win the Super Bowl. The only teams with better odds are the Indianapolis Colts (+600), San Diego Chargers (+800) and the New Orleans Saints (+900).
Without the duo that nearly single-handily won the Steelers Super Bowl XLIII, the Steelers remain a contender in the AFC, and for good reason. Byron Leftwich is a capable starter and if Pittsburgh’s other backup Dennis Dixon gets the call, then they should still be in good shape. On the road at Baltimore in an incredibly difficult situation Dixon played a nearly flawless game against the Ravens and pushed them to overtime before losing.
On top of that, if Roethlisberger is only suspended for four games as is expected, the Steelers will be playing the easiest part of their schedule. Three of their first four games are against non-playoff teams from a year ago and the one game against a playoff team, Baltimore, is at home.
The Steelers have shown in years past they can win without their big stars. Almost every year there seems to be an exodus outside of Pittsburgh of free agents. The Rooney way has always been to find other, younger, cheaper options to keep winning.
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Expect the Steelers to do it again this year even without Big Ben in the fold early on and without Santonio Holmes either. They won Super Bowl XL despite a horrendous performance by Roethlisberger. The suspension of Roethlisberger might force Pittsburgh to go about things the old-fashioned way with defense, but that approach also won the franchise five Super Bowls.