NFL Week 12: Winning In Pittsburgh Is Apparently A Matter Of Life And Death

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Pittsburgh Steelers have won 6 championships, are the defending Super Bowl champions and as an organization have done more for the promotion of cultural diversity in NFL head coaching than any other single entity.  The University of Pittsburg Medical Center is the epicenter of concussion research, having developed concussion related neurocognitive testing known as the Impact test utilized by every team in the NFL and serving as neurological consultants for their home town NFL team.

So with the utmost respect, I ask why in the world would the team allow their starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to put on a football uniform and be listed as the third string emergency quarterback for their Nov. 29th game?

Big Ben suffered his 4th reported concussion last Sunday and appropriately was removed from the game.  He continued to practice (to my disappointment) all week and passed his Impact test.  But late in the week some of his symptoms (headaches) returned with exertion.  He returned to the medical staff, was reevaluated and not cleared for contact; in other words deemed unsafe to play.

That should have been the end of the story, right?  Not quite.  Unfortunately, back-up QB Charlie Batch broke his forearm in last week’s game leaving him unable to play for 6 weeks.  The Steelers now found themselves turning to their 3rd string QB, Dennis Dixon, who has thrown only 1 pass in his 2-year NFL career.

Losing and the potential for more has a curious effect on the judgment of football coaches.

The Steelers are in the midst of a losing streak, sit at 6-4, are playing in the nationally televised Sunday night game against divisional foe the Baltimore Ravens.  Did I mention that they are fighting for their play-off lives?  Do I need to remind you that the Baltimore Ravens’ defense is anchored by arguably the greatest, hardest hitting middle linebacker in the modern history of the game, Ray Lewis (a virtual concussion producing machine)? 

Once again, I must suggest that the people who are responsible for winning and losing should not be the people entrusted with deciding who is healthy enough to play after suffering a concussion.  It is a potential conflict of interest that may one day cost someone their life.

Ben was not cleared to play; therefore, he should not be allowed to be in a uniform until he has been.  Do I think that he is likely to play?  No.  But do I think that it creates potentially harmful ambiguity and ambivalence?  Absolutely.

This scenario underscores, as I stated in my Nov. 27th post, the urgency for implementation of the 7-day Rule.