Ben Roethlisberger Injury News: Will Pittsburgh Steelers Finish With Losing Record for the First Time Since 2003 After Losing Veteran Quarterback?

Such is the nature of the NFL that an entire campaign can be derailed by a single event. The Pittsburgh Steelers season is dangerously close to coming apart at the seams after just two weeks because of one such incident.

On Sunday, veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger sat out the second half of Pittsburgh's 28-26 home defeat against the Seattle Seahawks with an unspecified elbow injury. A day later, the franchise confirmed the signal-caller would miss the rest of the season and will be out indefinitely.

While Roethlisberger has pledged to return next season, the injury casts a shadow over the remainder of his NFL career. Elbow injuries can be critical for quarterbacks, particularly ones who will be 38 by the time the next campaign kicks off.

In the shorter term, the injury has dealt a major blow to the Steelers' hopes of returning to the postseason. In fact, it may well see them finish with a record below .500 for the first time since 2003, the last season before they drafted Roethlisberger.

Pittsburgh is 0-2 after losing against the New England Patriots and Seattle and ranks fifth-last in the league in terms of yards per game and fourth-last in terms of points scored.

The Steelers' schedule isn't particularly taxing—it ranks 14th in the NFL—but Roethlisberger's injury won't help. Six of Pittsburgh remaining games are against AFC North rivals Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals.

The Ravens have won both their opening games on the back of an explosive offense led by second-year quarterback Lamar Jackson. Baltimore looked several steps ahead of Pittsburgh even before Roethlisberger's injury, while the Browns' hype has been burst by a 1-1 start but they retain the kind of talent that should make them a postseason candidate.

The only crumb for comfort for the Steelers is that the Bengals are in dire straits and the Miami Dolphins are one of the four non-AFC North teams scheduled to visit Heinz Field. The Dolphins are arguably the worst team in the league and it's difficult to imagine the Steelers losing to them.

Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers walks onto the field in the first quarter during the game against the Seattle Seahawks at Heinz Field on September 15 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Justin Berl/Getty

The other three visitors are the Indianapolis Colts, Los Angeles Rams and Buffalo Bills, while the Steelers will travel to San Francisco, Los Angeles to face the Chargers, Arizona and New Jersey to take on the Jets.

Of those teams, only the Jets are 0-2, while the Rams, 49ers and Bills have won their first two games.

To put the impact of Roethlisberger's injury into context, consider the fact that the Steelers began the season as 17/10 second-favorite to win the AFC North and are now 10/1 outsiders. On September 11, Pittsburgh was a 28/1 outsider to win Super Bowl LIV, despite the fact it was already 0-1.

Five days later, those odds rockets to 80/1, the sixth-longest of all 32 teams.

Roethlisberger threw for 5,129 yards and 34 touchdowns last season, completing 452 of his 675 passes.

All four figures were career highs, yet they weren't enough to drag Pittsburgh to the postseason. The Steelers finished 9-6 and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2013, as the off-field drama surrounding Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown threatened to unravel the franchise from the inside.

The duo left Pittsburgh in the offseason, with Bell moving to the New York Jets and Brown taking his shenanigans to the Oakland Raiders.

Throughout the offseason, the Steelers insisted what they had lost in term of talent was offset by an improvement in team spirit.

While that might still hold true, Roethlisberger's injury has deprived coach Mike Tomlin of a crucial offensive weapon at a particularly delicate time.

Along with Bell and Brown, offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert and tight end Jesse James left Pittsburgh in the offseason, as did offensive line coach Mike Munchak.

The Steelers' offense is in transition and Roethlisberger's injury will make that process all the more complicated. On Sunday, Mason Rudolph replaced Roethlisberger and finished 12-of-19 for 112 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

It was a solid enough performance but it is difficult to expect the third-round pick of the 2018 draft to drive the Steelers to the playoffs this season.

According to ESPN, 36 quarterbacks have been drafted in the third round since 1990. For two of them—Rudolph and Carolina Panthers' Will Grier—the jury remains out as they have entered the league over the last two seasons.

Of the other 34, only six became starters in three or more seasons.

The season is just two games old, but for the Steelers it might already be over.