As if the Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t need more bad news to start their already underwhelming 2019 season.
On Monday, the Steelers announced that a non-contact elbow injury suffered by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh’s 28-26 loss against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday would require season-ending surgery. The 37-year-old, veteran quarterback underwent an MRI following Pittsburgh’s game on Sunday and the results indicated surgery would be needed, though the exact extent of the injury is unknown.
Because the injury was not the result of a hit and hindered Roethlisberger’s ability to throw the ball, there was already initial concern from the team that it could be serious. And Pro Football Doc David Chao believes it’s a similar injury to one suffered by Drew Brees.
Injuries to the ulnar collateral ligament are not as common in football as they are in baseball due to a different throwing mechanism and force between the two sports. But it does happen to some quarterbacks who see a steady diet of passing. In the past, Carson Palmer, Jake Delhomme, and Rob Johnson had Tommy John surgery to fix UCL damage. In the case of Delhomme, he suffered his injury in mid-October 2007 and was back throwing by OTAs of 2008.
Another athlete to come back from UCL damage quickly was New York Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorious. His throwing mechanism is different and less forceful than a pitcher, allowing him to return from an October 2018 Tommy John procedure by May of this year.
AFC North Changes Direction
With the Steelers turning to backup Mason Rudolph and already stuck in an 0-2 rut, the title picture in what could be the NFL’s weakest division is starting to take shape.
The Cincinnati Bengals are also 0-2 after a blowout loss to San Francisco on Sunday and the Cleveland Browns are still winless heading into their Week 2 matchup with the New York Jets.
That leaves the surging Baltimore Ravens atop the North at 2-0, looking pretty convincing in the process. With the league’s top offense so far, Baltimore is looking not only like a division champion but a potential conference championship contender with New England and Kansas City.
Ben’s Out, Who’s In?
The Steelers have some big shoes to fill with Roethlisberger sidelined and will turn to backup Mason Rudolph. In his relief appearance on Sunday, Rudolph finished with 112 yards passing and two touchdowns.
But the Steelers have no other quarterback on the active roster behind Rudolph. They recently traded career-backup Josh Dobbs to the Jacksonville Jaguars when Nick Foles went down, leaving just two QBs available.
There is the option of elevating rookie Devlin Hodges off the practice squad. Signed as an undrafted free agent, Hodges won the Walter Payton Award last season for the most outstanding offensive player in the FCS while playing for Samford. He finished his college career with over 14,000 passing yards, a 69 percent completion rate, and 111 touchdown passes.
But if the Steelers want an experienced option, they may have to enter the trade market or sign a free agent to help backup Rudolph.