October 06, 2015 - Joe Mason
Tony Romo vs. Ben Roethlisberger: Which Quarterback's Injury Hurts Their Team More?
The Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys have the same huge problem: they’re missing their star quarterback for a big chunk of the season. Both teams have already felt the pain: the Cowboys lost last week’s game to the Atlanta Falcons and last night’s to the Saints, and the Pittsburgh Steelers lost a heartbreaker in the Thursday night game after failing to convert two fourth downs. The two injuries are arguably the most devastating losses in the league. But which team is hurt more by the absence of their quarterback? Let’s break it down. Who’s the Better Quarterback? Both Ben Roethlisberger and Tony Romo are excellent quarterbacks, so this is a tough one to answer. Romo led the league in passer rating last season and yards per pass attempt last season, but Roethlisberger led it in passing yards and long passes. Romo has a statistical edge in most categories over the past few years, but he also plays more games in domes and favorable conditions. Observers generally peg Roethlisberger as the better QB (they dislike Romo’s interceptions, which always seem to be thrown at the worst possible time), but we’re going to call it a wash – both are consistently excellent guys, arguably top-five QBs in most seasons. How Bad Are the Injuries? Both of these injuries are brutal, but one will take longer to recover from than the other will. Ben Roethlisberger, despite taking a hit that looked like a season-ender, only took damage to his MCL (his ACL was spared). He should be back in 4-6 weeks, though the Steelers aren’t being very clear about that timetable. Tony Romo’s broken clavicle requires a longer rehabbing period: he’s out until at least late November. That’s eight weeks. Thanks to the Cowboys’ bye week, Romo will only miss seven games, but that's still at least one more than Roethsliberger will miss. Romo’s injury is a repeat of one earlier in his career, and it’s an upper-body injury. We’ll give Romo the dubious honor of winning this round. Backing Things Up Brandon Weeden is a solid backup for the Cowboys, but we’re going to give the Steelers the edge at the position. It’s worth remembering that Brandon Weeden was older than the average draft pick when he was nabbed by the Browns in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft. He’s not a raw talent anymore – he’s 31 years old, and this may be as good as he gets. Vick may be past his prime at 35, but at least he had one. Both backups will have some support. A great offensive line helped Romo have a career year last year; this year, they’ll help give Weeden some time to figure things out. The Steelers have incredible offensive weapons, including RB Le’Veon Bell and WR Antonio Brown, which will make things a bit easier on Vick. Margin for Error Brandon Weeden and Michael Vick are not going to lead their teams to Super Bowls. Their jobs are the same: limit the damage until the superstar comes back. We’ve already mentioned that Weeden has a longer period to weather. But does that mean that his team is more at risk? Michael Vick is expected to start only 4-6 games for the Steelers, but those 4-6 may be more crucial than the 7 games that Weeden has to start. That’s because the Steelers have two problems that Dallas doesn’t: a tough division race, and a brutal schedule. The Cowboys, at 2-1 at the time of this writing, lead their division. The Giants keep beating themselves, the new-look Eagles aren’t working out, and the Redskins – well, they’re the Redskins. The Steelers were 2-1 prior to their Thursday night loss, but they weren’t in first even before the Ravens beat them: the Bengals, at 3-0, had that locked up. The Bengals are much better than any of the Cowboys’ NFC East competition, and they’ll get a crack at the Steelers on November 1, a game that Roethlisberger is likely to miss. On top of that, the Cowboys have a chance to make up ground fast once Romo is back: the Cowboys have games against the Panthers, Redskins (twice), and Jets. The Steelers have no such luck: Ben will deal with the Seahawks, Colts, Bengals, Broncos, and Ravens (again) when he gets back. At least he gets the Browns twice, too. The Verdict Romo may be out longer, but Roethlisberger is a bigger loss. Without Big Ben, the Steelers are likely to slide out of contention entirely. Both quarterbacks will return, but in all likelihood, only Tony Romo will play into the postseason.