Roethlisberger has nose for winning
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BALTIMORE -- Three things we know about Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger today:
• He was just good enough for his team to beat the Baltimore Ravens Sunday night at M&T Bank Stadium in a game that meant everything in the AFC North Division race.
• That broken right foot he hobbled into the game with? The broken nose he had early in the first quarter from a hit by defensive tackle Haloti Ngata? He barely felt the pain. OK, he felt it plenty, but he was able to laugh about it. You always can laugh when you win a big game against your big rivals.
• He really doesn't get any protection from the NFL officials.
Of course, none of those points is a surprise.
Especially not the first one.
When Roethlisberger plays, the Steelers almost always beat the Ravens. This time the score was 13-10. That makes six consecutive wins for Roethlisberger against the Ravens, eight in his 10 career starts against them. You might say he has had their number.
If the Ravens are truthful, they'll say it.
I know what you're thinking. The real star in this game was Steelers safety Troy Polamalu, who set up the winning touchdown by sacking Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco and forcing a fumble that linebacker LaMarr Woodley returned to the Baltimore 9 with a little more than three minutes left. And, really, it was running back Isaac Redman, who made the touchdown play that followed on third down, grabbing Roethlisberger's pass at the Ravens' 6 and breaking two tackles on his way to the end zone with 2:51 to play.
But I gotta tell you, Roethlisberger did his part just by showing up.
"He's such a warrior," Redman said. "He's out there with a broken foot. His nose is busted up. There's blood everywhere ...
"You see him and it doesn't matter what's hurting on you. You just got a suck it up and go along with him. He's such a great leader for us."
Roethlisberger's effort, like his teammates grind, was huge. This game was for first place in the division. The Steelers (9-3) hold a one game lead over the Ravens (8-4) in the standings, but it's really two games, as of now, because the Steelers hold the edge in the second tiebreaker based on division play. The path to the Super Bowl, as everyone knows, is much easier as a division champion than as a wild-card team.
"We had to have this game," Redman said.
Roethlisberger shook off a rough first half; he was just 9 for 19 for 92 yards with an interception and a puny 39.8 passer rating. He was sacked twice, the first time by linebacker Terrell Suggs and Ngata, who swiped Roethlisberger across the nose as he made the tackle. Is that not considered a hit to the head? Please, explain it to me.
You might want to explain it to Roethlisberger, as well.
"A hand came through my facemask and, the next thing I knew, blood was running down my face," Roethlisberger said. "I said to [referee Terry McAulay], 'He hit me in the head.' He said, 'He was just trying to tackle you.' "
So much for protecting the quarterback, right?
Roethlisberger also thought he was roughed up when Ravens safety Dawan Landry hit him late after a pass in the second quarter. He got up and looked to McAulay for a flag before gesturing angrily at him. Asked if he was surprised there were no personal-foul penalties called on the Ravens, Roethlisberger shrugged and said, "No."
Roethlisberger put all of it behind him -- the broken foot, the broken nose, the non-calls -- and led the Steelers on three second-half scoring drives. He completed 13 of his 19 passes for 161 yards and the touchdown pass to Redman.
Clearly, it wasn't Roethlisberger's finest game. But it ranked among his most satisfying.
Roethlisberger joked about the pain of his broken nose taking away from the pain of his broken foot. "It's killing me right now," he said.
Looking in the mirror couldn't have helped. Roethlisberger's nose bent badly toward the left.
"I look like I went 12 rounds with Pacquiao," he said of world champion boxer Manny Pacquiao.
"I guess I'll be having a little surgery in the morning to get it fixed."
Roethlisberger didn't seem to mind as he limped off into the night, his right foot in a walking boot. Of this he was certain: He felt better than any of the Ravens.
First Published December 6, 2010 12:19 am