October 23, 2015
I know all you hear and see is that Ben Roethlisberger (SEP Reliability Rating – 98) is not likely to play this week and truthfully there is no way to know who to believe. There is a chance that Mike Tomlin and the Pittsburgh Steelers fully expect him to play but would rather catch the Kansas City Chiefs a little off guard, or all the reports could be honest and accurate. The only thing we can do is look at the facts. Ben was diagnosed with a Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) sprain and a bone bruise that occurred on September 27th. I know you heard 4-6 weeks, but frankly I would put it at more like 3-5 weeks for the grade 2 sprain that he suffered. When you add in the fact that this is the NFL, where everything moves faster; I flat-out expected him to miss 3 games and then return.
I have talked about the MCL in the past and generally speaking I don’t worry about a player that has this injury trying to get back on the field right on time or even a little early. I find the knee to be one of the easiest joints to provide extra support for with bracing or taping. Ben Roethlisberger is a mobile quarterback in the pocket but he does not have to make signficant cuts at high speeds that would put his MCL at risk for re-injury. The MCL’s primary function is to stop the knee from caving to the inside (toward your other leg); and Ben suffered his injury to his left leg which is his plant leg during throws. This may seem like it would be significant and depending on his launch point and how he sets up for a throw the forces may vary; but generally speaking the MCL is not stressed during the throwing process as most of the force is going forward and put on sturdy muscles like the quads and the glutes. His biggest risk would be getting hit in the knee again which would likely aggravate his pain, but not likely to aggravate the actual structural integrity of the ligament unless he was hit just right for a second time (see image below for the force that puts MCL at most risk). For the limited mobility that Ben needs, I would definitely be bracing that knee to protect and support the MCL and simply live with having Ben at 80-90% rather than Michael “I still can’t make a 3, 5, or 7 step drop and pass” Vick or Landry Jones.
Well if my initial prediction was right, Ben Roethlisberger will be on the field this Sunday to face the Chiefs. Obviously there are other factors to consider like the fact that although the Chiefs are losing, they have one of the best pass rushing defenses in the league which may not be the ideal return spot for Roethlisberger as the undefeated Cincinnati Bengals are up next week.
In the end remember that this is generally a 3 week injury for most NFL players and regardless of whether the politics and planning puts Ben in or out of the game, I am pretty sure he could play this week. You can use some of this same rationale with Marcus Mariota (SEP Reliability Rating – 93) and Antonio Gates (SEP Reliability Rating – 73) who also suffered recent MCL sprains, however keep in mind that Gates must do a bunch more cutting based on position and Mariota is more mobility dependent at this stage of his career as compared to Ben Roethlisberger so the assessment would need to be tweaked a little for both. I don’t believe a grade for either of their sprains has been publicized, but we can assume a grade 1 or 2 as a grade 3 is a full tear and would be announced as significant time would be missed.
So for those out there waiting to make your weekly fantasy line ups, I say save room for Antonio Brown as he is definitely in play if Big Ben hits the field and fire up Ladarius Green because even if Antonio Gates plays he will not be himself with less than a week to heal. As for Zach Mettenberger.……no comment.