Big Ben Injury (09/28/15)

By John Ewing Director of Research and Analytics @johnewing
Can the Steelers survive without Big Ben?



The Pittsburgh Steelers will be without the services of their Pro Bowl quarterback for four to six weeks. Ben Roethlisberger suffered a sprained MCL in his left knee Sunday in the team's 12-6 win over St. Louis.

The good news is that Big Ben did not tear his ACL (a season ending injury) but he did bruise a bone in his knee in what some are calling a dirty play. Rams safety Mark Baron sacked Roethlisberger on a blitz but hit the large quarterback below the knee.



Pittsburgh now turns to Michael Vick to lead the team in Roethlisberger's absence. The veteran quarterback is now 35 years old, has been with the team for just over a month and has not been a regular starter in the league since 2013. For better or worse, Vick is now the starting quarterback.

With Vick and a poor defense, can the Steelers survive without Big Ben?

To find out we simulated Roethlisberger playing the next five games (we split the difference between the projected four to six week time table) and with Vick starting. The upcoming games will be challenging for the Steelers. Three are against playoff teams from a year ago and two are AFC North showdowns.

With Big Ben, the Steelers were projected favorites in three of the next five games, which includes the key division matchups against the Ravens and Bengals. With Vick starting, Pittsburgh becomes an underdog in each game.

Game With Roethlisberger With Vick
vs. Ravens 60.1% 45.2%
at Chargers 49.9% 36.6%
vs. Cardinals 56.9% 42.0%
at Chiefs 49.0% 35.3%
vs. Bengals 57.1% 40.1%

Over this five game stretch the Steelers would be expected to win 2.7 games on average with Roethlisberger, that number drops to 2.0 wins with Vick calling the plays.

Against the Ravens, Chargers, Cardinals, Chiefs and Bengals, Roethlisberger would total 1,449.7 passing yards, 10.5 touchdowns and 4.5 interceptions. Vick is not near the passer and his projected totals are 1,157.0 yards, 5.7 touchdowns and 4.7 interceptions (he does not top 15 projected rushing yards in any game). The difference between Roethlisberger and Vick over the next five games is nearly 300 passing yards and five touchdowns. The Steelers with Big Ben are projected to average 28.5 points per game and with Vick starting Pittsburgh scores a touchdown less per game.

Roethlisberger's injury is unfortunate and the timing could not be worse. Again, before the injury, Pittsburgh was the projected favorite against both Baltimore and Cincinnati. Key wins that made the Steelers 34.9 percent likely to win the AFC North and 54.3 percent likely to make the playoffs.

With Vick as the starter, Pittsburgh's odds of winning the division decrease to 19.7 percent (projected underdogs against both the Ravens and Bengals) and the team's playoff odds drop to 34.3 percent.

The Steelers need the Michael Vick Experience to make the playoffs, but that player isn't walking through the door. Big Ben's injury knocks Pittsburgh out of the postseason.

Stats With Roethlisberger With Vick
Win AFC North 34.9% 19.7%
Make Playoffs 54.3% 34.3%
Win Super Bowl 3.6% 0.6%