Winning QB winning them over

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Funny, no one has mentioned this week that the Steelers should trade or release Ben Roethlisberger.

Not during Baltimore week.

Not with first place on the line in the AFC North Division Sunday night.

Not after Roethlisberger played such a terrific game against the Buffalo Bills Sunday.

Really, isn't it amazing how the ill will toward Roethlisberger and the Steelers because of his sexual assault case in March in Milledgeville, Ga., has died down because the team is 8-3 and he's playing great football?

Did you know you can buy a Christmas ornament with Roethlisberger's likeness on it for $9.99 to hang on your tree?

I'm betting it will be a huge seller this year.

I give Roethlisberger a lot of credit. He has won back Steelers fans by keeping a couple of promises. He apologized for acting like a creep and promised to be a better person. From what I can tell, he has done that. He also apologized to his teammates for causing such a distraction -- notably his four-game suspension from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell at the start of the season -- and promised to do his part to make the team a Super Bowl contender. No question, he has done that.

Did you see Roethlisberger in the 19-16 overtime win against the Bills?

"I told him after the game, 'I'm happy to be on your team. I'm glad I'm playing with you,' " wide receiver Hines Ward said.

Roethlisberger helped the Steelers convert 8 of 10 third-down plays in the first half and build a 13-0 lead. He scrambled for 18 yards on a third-and-17 play in the fourth quarter to set up a field goal and a 16-13 lead. Then on a third-and-8 play on the winning drive in overtime, he looked right for wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders and looked down the middle for Ward and tight end Heath Miller before finding wide receiver Mike Wallace to his left for a 17-yard gain just as the Bills' pass rush closed in.

"It's so rare for a guy to be able to stay focused in that beehive," Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said. "You have to have a special gift. He's got it."

Roethlisberger's 18-yard scramble was, for me, the best play of the season. He made a spectacular move in the pocket to spin away from linebacker Chris Kelsay, who beat offensive tackle Flozell Adams to the outside. An instant later, feeling pressure from defensive end Marcus Stroud who was chasing him with foul intentions, he sprinted to his right.

"My thought process at that point is to get up to the line of scrimmage but not go over it," Roethlisberger said. "People talk about me taking too many sacks and not going down and taking hits. But that's just me. Whatever it takes to make a play."

"He's always looking down the field," Ward said. "That's why we as receivers can never give up on a play."

There was no play to be made this time. Roethlisberger had to run. The problem was he couldn't get to the first-down marker and get out of bounds. He had to cut back inside to avoid a hit from safety Jairus Byrd before being tackled from behind by linebacker Aaron Maybin.

"It's third-and-forever and he gets the first down," Bills linebacker Paul Posluszny said.

"He was going to get that first down, come hell or high water," Arians said.

"That was just the competitor coming out of me," Roethlisberger said.

"When you see your quarterback do that, other guys feed off it," Ward said.

Roethlisberger's work continued on the sideline after that drive. Four plays after his scramble, Sanders dropped a third-down pass that would have gone for a first down and maybe a touchdown. The kid was inconsolable coming off the field.

"I told him, 'I'm coming back to you. Don't let it happen again, but I'm coming back to you,' " Roethlisberger said.

Roethlisberger had a similar message earlier for running back Rashard Mendenhall, who lost a fumble at the Steelers' 29. "No one felt worse about it than him," Roethlisberger said. "I told him, 'Keep your head up. Keep running. We're going to need you.' Sure enough, we did."

Mendenhall had six carries for 27 yards on the winning drive. Soon after kicker Shaun Suisham ended the game with a 41-yard field goal, Steelers guard Chris Kemoeatu found Roethlisberger on the field, gave him a hug and apologized for having a rough day that included four holding penalties.

"I told him I didn't care about that," Roethlisberger said. "I told him I liked the way he kept fighting. He has to move on from this. We're going to need him in the next game."

The Baltimore game.

As much as the Steelers need Kemoeatu to be of sound mind and body against the Ravens, they need a healthy Roethlisberger more. He said he aggravated a foot sprain late in the first half against the Bills. He said his foot originally was hurt in the New England game two weeks earlier.

"The only time I can remember Baltimore beating us recently was when we didn't have our starting quarterback," Ward said.

The man's memory is right on. The Ravens beat the Steelers in October when Roethlisberger was suspended. They beat them last December when he missed the game with a concussion. They beat them in December 2007 when he sat out with a sore arm and a bum ankle to get ready for the playoffs.

The Steelers have won the past five games against the Ravens when Roethlisberger has played.

"I like our chances with Ben," Ward said.

So do I.


• Game: Steelers (8-3) vs. Baltimore Ravens (8-3), 8:30 p.m.

• Where: M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore.


Ron Cook: . Ron Cook can be heard on the "Vinnie and Cook" show weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on 93.7 The Fan.


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