Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger celebrates his sixth touchdown of the night Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens at Heinz Field.
By Ron Cook/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Ben Roethlisberger stood in a quiet hallway outside the locker room early Monday morning, the roars from the big crowd at Heinz Field on Joe Greene Night still ringing in his ears. He had just set an NFL record for the second consecutive game, yet he wanted to talk only about the 43-23 win against the Baltimore Ravens, the Steelers’ 6-3 record, his linemen, wide receivers and running backs, the defense and special teams, “Mr. Greene” and the “awesome” fans. It seemed like the right time to ask: Would it really hurt you to toot your horn just a bit?
“There is no point in doing that,” Roethlisberger said. “This is the ultimate team sport. I’ve told guys before: ‘When you can score a touchdown on the football field by yourself, then you can celebrate and be that guy.’ It’s impossible to do. It’s a team game. It’s just fun for me to go out there and play ball with these guys.”
The best ball of his Hall of Fame-caliber career, actually.
Roethlisberger became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for more than 500 yards in two different games when he passed for 522 in a 51-34 win Oct. 26 against Indianapolis. His six touchdown passes against the Ravens gave him 12 in consecutive games, breaking the NFL record of 11 held by Tom Flores and Tom Brady. Through nine games, Roethlisberger is on pace to complete 411 passes for 4,836 yards, 39 touchdowns, just five interceptions and a passer rating of 110.6. All would be career-bests. He ranks in the top three in the league in every important passing category. He has put himself in the conversation for NFL MVP. He is adding to the resume he will present to the Rooneys after the season when he negotiates what should be a multiyear contract extension worth more than $20 million a year.
Roethlisberger insists he’s oblivious to it all.
“I have no clue what’s going on out on the field. I can’t even tell you who scored the touchdowns tonight. You know me. I’m not a stats guy. I’ve never been a stats guy. All I care about is wins and Super Bowls.”
Roethlisberger has led the Steelers to two Super Bowl titles. He still beats himself up for not playing better in a 31-25 loss to the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XLV. Since he came into the NFL in 2004, his goal has been to win five championships, breaking Terry Bradshaw’s franchise record of four.
If Roethlisberger keeps playing this well, the Steelers will have a shot at getting to Super Bowl XLIX in February. Or maybe not. He said he has to play a lot better than he did against the Ravens.
Roethlisberger threw for 340 yards and those six touchdowns.
“I wasn’t real happy with my performance,” he said. “At the end of the day, it looks good, but, during the course of it, it was disappointing to me because I felt like I was letting guys down. I could have done more to help the team. I wasn’t putting the ball in front of guys. I wasn’t making good throws, good reads. And we had guys open on plays.”
Roethlisberger was good enough to throw touchdown passes to five receivers. His favorite was the final one for 33 yards to reserve blocking tight end Matt Spaeth. Officials had to check replay to see if Spaeth made it to the end zone. It was his first catch of the season.
“I would have been disappointed if he was short,” Roethlisberger said. “It would have had nothing to do with me throwing touchdown passes. It’s that I wanted him to have a touchdown catch because of all the hard work and the things he does, the grunt work. We called him a scoring machine tonight. I’m so happy for him.”
Roethlisberger threw two touchdown passes to rookie Martavis Bryant, giving Bryant five scores in three games. But Roethlisberger cautioned, “There are still things that he doesn’t do right all the time.”
Roethlisberger offered no such qualifier about Antonio Brown, who had 11 catches for 144 yards, including a 54-yard touchdown. The two have developed something special, bringing back memories of Roethlisberger throwing to Hines Ward and Mike Wallace or Bradshaw throwing to Lynn Swann and John Stallworth.
“There still are things that you always want to improve and fine-tune,” Roethlisberger said. “I’m sure that Joe Montana and Jerry Rice probably had things they still wanted to work on and get better and they were maybe the best duo of all time. But A.B. is right there at the top of the guys I’ve played with. He can make you look really good. He’s made me look good many times. I’m blessed to have him on my team.”
Roethlisberger said the best part of the night, aside from the win, was the team playing well in front of the legendary Greene, who had his No. 75 jersey retired at halftime. “The place was electric. We wanted to go out and put on a show for our fans and make Mr. Greene and all the other former players proud. What a team effort. Offense, defense, special teams. Defense got turnovers. We capitalized. That’s how a football team is supposed to play.”
Roethlisberger was lucky he could smile about it all. In a game at Baltimore in 2010, he had his nose broken by a hit by defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. Sunday night, he nearly had his jaw broken by a cheap-shot hit from linebacker Courtney Upshaw. People have complained about Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs’ hit on running back LeGarrette Blount later in the game, but Upshaw’s blow was worse. He was called for a personal foul.
“When I can see it coming, I know it’s late — and I definitely saw that one,” Roethlisberger said. “I couldn’t believe he kept coming at me. I think he drilled me with his shoulder.”
After getting up, Roethlisberger contorted his face a few times to make sure his jaw was in one piece. Pictures of him doing it lit up Twitter and the Internet. Many did a little photoshopping, the most clever adding a sailor’s hat, a corncob pipe and a can of spinach.
Bingo, Popeye the Sailor Man.
“I can’t wait to see that,” Roethlisberger said, rolling his eyes.
Surely, they are ridiculing Roethlisberger in Baltimore.
In Pittsburgh, though, not so much.
To the fans here, Roethlisberger never has looked better.
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