Big Ben puts it all on his big shoulders
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is 99 yards shy of passing for 3,000 yards for the seventh consecutive season.
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There is no I in Team. If you've heard it once, you've heard it hundreds of times. There is no I in Team.
Or is there?
"I feel like I have to win this game," Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was saying the other day.
"I want to lead these guys. I know they're looking to me to get it done. I want to be that guy for them. I don't want to let them down."
That is a lot of I's.
In this case, that is a good thing.
The Steelers play the Cincinnati Bengals today at Heinz Field. You might have heard it's a big game. Win, and the Steelers have a great opportunity to make the playoffs. Lose, and they fall to 7-8 and are eliminated from the postseason chase.
There is one big reason to like the Steelers.
If you are ranking the Steelers' all-time great competitors, Roethlisberger would be high on the list. "He has a will to win that no one can match," former Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said earlier this season. "He loves playing football. He's as good as there's ever been."
The bigger the game, the better Roethlisberger usually plays. He's 10-4 as a starter in the postseason, a two-time Super Bowl winner. The game today isn't a playoff game, but it is a must-win game. That makes it huge. That should bring out the best in Roethlisberger.
There is another reason to like the Steelers.
What do they say about getting knocked off a horse and wanting to climb right back on?
"I can handle losing," Roethlisberger said. "I can handle being the guy they blame for the loss. What I hate is having to come back in here and look at the guys and feel like I let them down. I hate that feeling. I had it Sunday. I hated it. I can't wait to get rid of it."
Roethlisberger played a strong game against the Dallas Cowboys, passing for 339 yards and two touchdowns. But he threw a killer interception on the second play of overtime that led to the Cowboys' 27-24 win. Roethlisberger's sideline pass for wide receiver Mike Wallace was behind Wallace and picked off by cornerback Brandon Carr, who returned it 36 yards to the Steelers 1.
"The play call was good. The protection was good. The read was good. I just babied the throw," Roethlisberger said.
"I couldn't believe it. I must make that throw 400 times a season. I knew that one was bad when it left my hand. At that point, I was just hoping [Carr] wouldn't catch it. But he did. We lost. It was all on me."
Roethlisberger said he beat himself up over the loss for three days. "You keep thinking, 'I should have called this. I should have looked there. I should have done this ... ' " Roethlisberger said he didn't get over the loss until he reported to work Wednesday morning to start preparations for the Bengals. Then it was time to look ahead, not back.
Getting back on the horse, remember?
All the numbers indicate Roethlisberger will be successful today. He's 14-4 against the Bengals, including a playoff win after the 2005 season. Bengals second-year quarterback Andy Dalton is 0-3 against the Steelers. Roethlisberger also is 53-16 in games at Heinz Field.
Roethlisberger led the Steelers on a winning fourth-quarter touchdown drive Oct. 21 to beat the Bengals, 24-17, in Cincinnati. That was one of 30 winning drives he has led in the fourth quarter or overtime, including three in the postseason. "For every interception I throw to lose a game, I hope there are five-to-10 game-winning drives," he said.
It must be pointed out that Roethlisberger failed at the end in his past two postseason games. In the playoff loss at Denver last season, the Steelers got the ball at their 24 with 1:37 left and the score, 23-23. They moved to the Denver 45 before Roethlisberger was sacked, then made it back to the Denver 49 before he was sacked again. The Broncos won on the first play of overtime. In Super Bowl XLV against the Green Bay Packers, the Steelers trailed, 31-25, when they took possession at their 13 with 2:07 left. They made it to their 33 before three Roethlisberger incompletions gave the ball back to the Packers, who ran out the clock.
"Disappointing," Roethlisberger called those finishes. "I expect us to score every time we get the ball. But it doesn't always happen that way. Even Michael Jordan didn't make every last shot he took."
That didn't stop Jordan from shooting.
Nor will it stop Roethlisberger today.
"I hope it doesn't come down to the fourth quarter because that can mean we played crappy in the first three quarters. I'd rather be ahead, 35-7, going into the fourth quarter ... "
But if the Steelers aren't?
If the game and the season come down to one drive in the fourth quarter or overtime?
"I want the ball in my hands," Roethlisberger said.
I can't think of a better place for it to be.
Tracking: Seven for 7
With 99 yards passing today, Ben Roethlisberger will have his seventh consecutive 3,000-yard passing season. His streak:
First Published December 23, 2012 12:00 am