PITTSBURGH – (Wire Service Report) – With Ben Roethlisberger’s surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee, the Steelers likely will turn to backup Landry Jones for their home game against the Patriots Sunday at Heinz Field. Roethlisberger injured his knee in the first half of a 30-15 loss in Miami. He came back in the second half after team doctors told him he could not do any further damage to the injury.
The Steelers confirmed the surgery Monday afternoon but did not provide a timetable for his return. Coach Mike Tomlin did say the injury is not “long term.”
Jones fueled the fire that Roethlisberger might not miss a game when he volunteered to reporters Monday afternoon that Phillip Rivers had similar surgery before the AFC championship game following the 2007 season and came back to play six days later.
This is a completely different circumstance with much less on the line. Pittsburgh is 4-2 and in first place in the AFC North, and has a bye week following the Patriots game.
Jones made one start last season and lost, 23-13, in Kansas City. But the most recent memory for Steelers fans is a relief performance against the Bengals in the AFC wild card game they’d rather forget.
Jones was 2 for 5 and threw an interception after Roethlisberger injured his shoulder in that game. Only a late Bengals fumble and a heroic final drive from Roethlisberger saved Pittsburgh on that night.
“He’s grown,” offensive lineman Ramon Foster said. “This will be the full test. This is a good team coming in, a good defense. He’s thrown into the fire.”
The Steelers could not get out of their own way against the Dolphins, who entered the game with a 1-4 record. This was latest in a long series of losses to bad teams.
Pittsburgh insisted last week they were a different team. Those bad losses to bad teams in previous seasons were in the rear view mirror. The 2016 team was going to be the one to change the fortunes and the habits of losing to inferior teams.
Better luck next year.
The Steelers fell to 5-11 in their past 16 road games against teams with losing records after their loss to the Dolphins. And while it’s true the Steelers remain atop the AFC North — because Cincinnati, Cleveland and Baltimore all lost, too — it’s also worth noting these are exactly the type of losses that have prevented them from being a top 2 seed in the AFC playoffs in recent years.
Pittsburgh hasn’t had a first-round bye since being the No. 2 seed in 2010, the last time they advanced to the Super Bowl. Dropping a game to the Dolphins the week before playing the Patriots at home, the Steelers were victims to a classic “trap game.”
“You know, you can characterize it as such — because we lost — but when I look at it, I don’t look at who we play or their records or things of that nature,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “I look at how we perform. We didn’t perform well enough to win. We didn’t tackle well enough to win. We didn’t take care of the ball.
“So, anybody in the National Football League is going to beat you when you have a combination of those two things.”