Big Ben missed practice on Wednesday and termed himself "day to day" and "hour to hour." I expect to see him on the field. You probably expect to see him play. Most everyone thinks that the quarterback will gut it out once again.
Steelers players are hopeful their leader will be back, but can't lean on that eventuality. Pittsburgh linebacker Ryan Shazier told NFL Network's NFL HQ on Thursday that the Steelers can't just lean on Big Ben in every big spot.
"I hope he's all systems go. Man, he's such a great player, he's such a great leader and he just brings so much energy to the stadium, guys understand that if he's not going to be able to go then how much more each person has to step up," Shazier said. "This is a team game. We all understand that. Coach (Mike) Tomlin emphasizes next man up and if we want to do what we dreamt about doing in the beginning of the season and be the team that we want to be, then guys have to step up, we can't just depend on one guy all the time."
If Big Ben can't play, Landry Jones will get the start. Since 2004, Steelers quarterbacks other than Roethlisberger have thrown a combined total of nine postseason passes in 16 playoff games. Jones has five of those nine attempts.
"I feel like we are really confident with Landry," Shazier said. "We beat some pretty good teams when we had Landry and I feel like we are really confident. And the defense has gained a lot of chemistry and gotten a lot better. We are starting to understand each other a lot better. So on the defensive side of the ball we really feel like we can take care of it and keep the game in hand ... We still got a lot of talent on offense, Ben is one of the best players ever, but we still have a lot of talent on offense and we have to do what we have to do to get the job done."
With a banged up Big Ben, Antonio Brown's status in limbo and DeAngelo Williams likely out, the Pittsburgh offense is in danger of being a shadow of itself. After the offense shouldered the load all year, it's time for the defense to carry the Steelers in the playoffs.