Roethlisberger already in comfort zone

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His right Achilles injury? No problem.

The constant posturing by the attorneys in his sexual assault case that has made for so much salacious front-page news the past month? No distraction.

The Buffalo Bills' defense against him last night? No match.

Was Ben Roethlisberger terrific or what?

A lot of things went right for the Steelers in their 17-0 exhibition win against the Bills at Heinz Field, including a monster game by linebacker James Farrior, five catches by always dependable wide receiver Hines Ward, a few nice runs by less dependable Rashard Mendenhall, a couple of acrobatic catches by enigmatic wide receiver Limas Sweed and a couple of more nice kick returns by one-time long-shot free agent Stefan Logan, who continued to make a strong case for a roster spot. But nothing should make you feel better about your favorite team's chances of making it two Super Bowls in a row and three in five years than Big Ben's lights-out performance. If I'm coach Mike Tomlin, I don't think I play him in the final exhibition game at Carolina Thursday night. He looked that ready for the season.

"When you got it, you got it," Steelers offensive tackle Willie Colon said. "He's got it."

Added backup quarterback Charlie Batch, "He saw everything out there tonight."

Roethlisberger showed Tomlin enough of what he wanted to see that he was excused for the evening at halftime. It's hard to top 15 of 19 for 168 yards and two long scoring drives that resulted in 10 points. Big Ben wasn't perfect. He fumbled a snap and took a questionable delay-of-game penalty that was disputed by Tomlin and others on the Steelers' sideline. But he couldn't have been much sharper throwing the football, especially considering he missed the exhibition game at Washington a week earlier with his foot injury, the result of big offensive tackle Max Starks' little tap-dance number on it in the final training-camp practice at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe.

Clearly, Roethlisberger's foot has healed.

And the verbal warfare from his attorneys and hers in his he-said, she-said civil lawsuit?

Just say concentration was no problem for No. 7 as he picked apart the Bills defense.

"What he does when he walks out of here and goes to his home or how much it bothers him there, I can't say," Ward said. "But when he's here on the field, it's all about football. It's about all of us together. I don't see it as any kind of distraction."

Roethlisberger was especially impressive on the Steelers' fifth and final series of the half. There was a 16-yard dart to Sweed, who earlier made a sweet grab of a ball that was a bit high and behind him for an 11-yard gain. There was a 19-yard rope to Ward that, though behind him, obviously was catchable for a player of his great skills. And there was a beauty of a touch pass to tight end Heath Miller that went for an 18-yard gain.

Roethlisberger was 5 of 7 for 74 yards on the drive, the two incompletions coming when Sweed juggled a perfect throw on the sideline -- he's an enigma, I tell you -- and Ward couldn't quite make a diving catch in the end zone.

It's no wonder Tomlin fairly beamed about the time Mendenhall was finishing the drive with a 4-yard touchdown run for a 17-0 halftime lead. If not for a Mendenhall fumble and a false-start penalty on guard Trai Essex, the coach would have little to quibble about with his first-string offense.

"I think so," Roethlisberger said when asked if he felt he and his fellas were ready for the season.

Colon agreed.

"Ben is extremely comfortable right now. It's our job to keep him comfortable. We know if we keep him upright, we have a great chance of winning."

Certainly, Big Ben and his health are major keys to the season.

The man is off to a nice start on the path to the Hall of Fame.

We see it here on a regular basis, but it's still somewhat of a secret nationally, hard as that is to believe. was the latest to do one of those clever lists, naming the NFL's top 10 impact players under 30. Roethlisberger didn't make the cut.

What a disgrace.

Not that Big Ben cares much. He cares about just two things: What his guys think and winning.

Well, the teammates are just fine with him, thank you very much.

And that winning part?

Two Super Bowl titles in four years screams about that subject.

Three in five would be absolutely deafening.

"With him back there," Colon said of Roethlisberger, "it's always possible."

Ron Cook can be reached at .


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