Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger directs wide receiver Hines Ward during Sunday's game in Detroit.
By Ron Cook Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
I've said it before and I'll say it again: Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is the John Elway of this generation.
There are a number of ways to support that supposition, starting with Roethlisberger's two Super Bowls in his first five NFL seasons. All quarterbacks are judged by their won-loss record. Roethlisberger's is a staggering 54-22 in the regular season, including 22-5 against AFC North Division opponents. He has 30 career 100-plus passer rating games, including a 123.9 in the 28-20 victory Sunday in Detroit when he threw for 277 yards and three touchdowns.
Those are hard, fast numbers. Indisputable numbers. But just as clear is Roethlisberger's winning mindset. He is aware of everything on the field at all times. Nothing frightens him, not even 285-pound defensive ends with evil intentions. Nothing throws him off his game, not even the occasional interception that is returned for a touchdown.
"Ben doesn't blink," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said.
Roethlisberger's reaction after throwing the second-quarter interception that Detroit cornerback William James returned 38 yards for a touchdown to cut the Steelers' lead to 14-13 was the most fascinating part of the game. He walked slowly to the sideline, a wry smile on his face all the way, seemingly in disbelief that James -- or anyone, for that matter -- could make a play to get the better of him. Then, he immediately went to offensive coordinator Bruce Arians and asked if he could run the no-huddle offense on the next possession.
"It was like, 'This next series is on me. I want it,' " said backup quarterback Charlie Batch, who was privy to the Roethlisberger-Arians conversation. "Usually, B.A. or coach Tomlin suggests we go no-huddle. Not this time. Ben said, 'I want it right now.' "
Roethlisberger loves the no-huddle offense because he's more in charge of the game, calling the plays himself based on what he sees from the defense. Here's the sequence he came up with on that next possession: a 4-yard run by back Rashard Mendenhall, a 10-yard pass to tight end Heath Miller, a 1-yard run by Mendenhall, an 11-yard pass to Miller, a 9-yard pass to Miller, a 17-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Hines Ward.
Four completions for 47 yards and a touchdown.
A 21-13 lead for the Steelers.
"You can't answer the call better than that," Batch said.
No one can appreciate what Roethlisberger did on that series quite like another quarterback.
"You know he felt bad about the interception," Batch said. "You throw one like that and you're thinking, 'I owe the team. I just gave up seven points.' Well, he did something about it, didn't he?"
Roethlisberger admitted he was "a little ticked off at myself" after James stepped in front of rookie wide receiver Mike Wallace, who was running a sideline pattern, to make the interception. "I read the coverage right. I threw a ball that was a pretty good ball. Mike ran a good route ??? I put it in the right spot, I just didn't put enough on it."
And Roethlisberger's take on his conversation with Arians?
" 'Give me the ball. Let me go with it.' "
Roethlisberger threw a 47-yard touchdown pass to Wallace in the third quarter, not just bumping the Steelers' lead to 28-13 but making Wallace's day. Only two plays before the James' interception, Wallace dropped what should have been a 71-yard touchdown pass.
"I've told any receiver that's come through here after a drop: 'I'm not going to get mad at you. I'm coming right back to you so be ready,' " Roethlisberger said.
Do you think maybe that comes from knowing what it feels like to make a big mistake and wanting to atone for it?
Wallace felt like garbage after the drop but went home happy after his touchdown turned out to be the decisive points in the win.
It was just a part of another good day's work for Roethlisberger.
Not that No. 7 was satisfied.
"I don't feel like I'm playing well," he said. "I'm disappointed in my performance today. Even offensively, I'm disappointed in the way we played."
The Steelers went three-and-out on their final two possessions, giving the Lions a chance to come back.
"The standard is higher for us on offense," Roethlisberger said. "We need to really put the nail in the coffin at the end."
The Steelers will try to do better Sunday when they play the Cleveland Browns at Heinz Field. The Browns have scored an offensive touchdown in just two of their past 11 games, going back to last season. Somehow, they beat the Buffalo Bills, 6-3, Sunday despite quarterback Derek Anderson completing 2 of 17 passes for 23 yards.
Do you think the Browns would love to have the Steelers' offensive troubles?
A better question:
Do you think the Browns would love to have Roethlisberger?