As most football fans know, quarterback is the most important position on the fie. Nowhere is that truer than in the NFL. In Week 2 of the 2019 NFL season, two teams suffered debilitating injuries to their quarterbacks: the New Orleans Saints with Drew Brees and the Pittsburgh Steelers with Ben Roethlisberger.
As both teams pick up the pieces, let’s take a look at both QBs’ injuries, their replacements, and whether the Saints and Steelers can make the playoffs.
Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger get injured
After a thrilling Week 1 victory over Houston on Monday Night Football, Brees injured his thumb in Week 2. NFL.com reported on the injury:
“The 40-year-old signal-caller suffered the injury on the Saints‘ second drive Sunday. As he released a pass to tight end Jared Cook, Brees hit the hand of Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald and then had his digits pressed against his own helmet. Brees would exit the game and was seen on the sideline unable to grip a ball.”
He’s expected to have surgery that will force him to miss six to eight weeks of action.
Roethlisberger’s injury was to his elbow, and his outlook is bleaker. Roethlisberger reported feeling pain in his right elbow before the Steelers’ Week 2 game against the Seahawks before he injured it. He’d release a statement after he found out he’d miss the rest of the 2019 campaign:
“I’ve been informed that I need season-ending surgery on my elbow to continue playing football at the level I expect. This is shocking and heartbreaking for me, to miss this much of a season and feel like I am letting down so many people. I can only trust God’s plan, but I am completely determined to battle through this challenge and come back stronger than ever next season.”
Brees’ and Big Ben’s replacements
Teddy Bridgewater replaces Drew Brees in New Orleans. Bridgewater is one of the best backups in the NFL. He formerly started in Minnesota before suffering a devastating injury several seasons ago. After a short stint in New York, he went to New Orleans to serve as Brees’ understudy.
The Saints also have Taysom Hill at quarterback. Hill is a versatile player with a lot of athleticism the team likes to insert at multiple positions and on trick plays. The two combined give the Saints a steady hand and a unique look at quarterback.
For Roethlisberger, his replacement is former Oklahoma State Cowboys’ quarterback Mason Rudolph. Rudolph, Pittsburgh’s third-round pick in 2018, saw no action last season. In two games so far in 2019, he’s thrown for 286 yards and four touchdowns in two games played.
Roethlisberger and Brees are two of the most durable quarterbacks in football. Losing both are a huge blow. But will it keep both teams out of the playoffs?
Will the Saints and Steelers make the playoffs without Brees and Roethlisberger?
The Saints beat a solid Seahawks team in Week 3. Over the next five games, Brees is expected to miss (at a minimum), their opponents include the Dallas Cowboys, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Chicago Bears, and Arizona Cardinals followed by their bye week. Of those games, only one seems downright unwinnable (Week 4 against Dallas). The rest of the games are doable. The Saints are 2-1 right now. If they can win at least two of their next five, that puts them at 4-4 when Brees is expected to return. Provided Brees returns at full strength, that probably puts them right in the thick of the playoff hunt.
The Steelers aren’t quite so fortunate. Already struggling when Roethlisberger was injured, they’ve lost their leader for the entire season. Even if Rudolph plays relatively well, asking what amounts to a first-year quarterback to make the playoffs on a team that started 0-3 seems like too tall of an order.
Prediction: the Saints hold the line and Drew Brees returns to guide them to, at best, an NFC South division championship and, at worst, a wild card berth. The Steelers will miss the playoffs and line themselves up for a top pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.