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Steelers still have a fighting chance

4/21/2010

Do not expect many complaints from the Pittsburgh Steelers over Ben Roethlisberger's suspension, which is expected to be four to six games.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell made the right call in suspending Roethlisberger, who was accused of sexual assault twice in the past year and violated the league's personal conduct policy. But the Steelers are fortunate to still have a chance to salvage their 2010 season.

A suspension of eight games would have all but ended Pittsburgh's season before it ever began. If you thought the team looked average last year without safety Troy Polamalu, imagine how below average the Steelers would be without their $100 million quarterback for half the season.

Roethlisberger is at fault, and he got the brunt of the punishment. Here is a breakdown of how much money Roethlisberger is set to lose depending on the length of his suspension.

Backup quarterbacks Byron Leftwich, Charlie Batch and Dennis Dixon will be fine for the short term. Pittsburgh will be less formidable offensively. But with a top-five defense and expected improvements in the running game, the Steelers should be able to compete minus Roethlisberger against the Atlanta Falcons, Tennessee Titans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Baltimore Ravens, and possibly the Cleveland Browns and Miami Dolphins in mid-October. (Here's the Steelers' complete schedule.)

A split for Pittsburgh in the first four or six games would be considered a huge success. But even at 1-3 or 2-4, the season wouldn't be over when Roethlisberger returns.

With Roethlisberger under center, the Steelers are a Super Bowl contender this season. Without him for a significant period, they can't make the playoffs.

The suspension could land Pittsburgh somewhere in between, and Roethlisberger's play late in the season will determine how far this team can go.