On The Steelers: Brady does damage from pocket; Big Ben does it on the run
Roethlisberger and Mike Wallace enjoy a lighter moment before the start of practice Wednesday at the team's South Side facilities. Roethlisberger has passed for 1,937 yards == 730 of them to Wallace.
Share with others:
Peyton Manning's absence from the NFL this season has left Tom Brady as the unchallenged passing maestro in the AFC.
At No. 2? Ben Roethlisberger.
The Steelers and their quarterback again have become a more dominant passing team one season after they responded to team president Art Rooney's wishes and paid more attention to the run.
Roethlisberger has passed for 1,937 yards and is on pace for 4,427 yards for the season, which would break his team record of 4,328 set in 2009.
So, can he go toe-to-toe with Brady if necessary Sunday at Heinz Field?
"We'll see," Roethlisberger answered simply.
The one-two quarterbacks in passing yards in the AFC are as different in style as Boston is to Pittsburgh. Brady is the prototype pocket quarterback; Roethlisberger is bigger, stronger and often throws on the run.
"If you watch a game of the Patriots, Tom Brady just stands back there flat-footed," Roethlisberger said. "That's not a knock on him, that's just because he seems to be sitting there and he has time and there's no one around him. But, when you see him start having to move and run and get out of the pocket and not hit things in rhythm, that's when teams usually have success against him."
And when Roethlisberger does that, it's often when he has some of his best success.
"They are two different kinds," Steelers receiver Mike Wallace said. "Defenses think Tom Brady is going to sit back in the pocket and pick you apart. Ben can do that, but he can also kill you on the outside and with broken plays. That's the fear they have of him more so than him just sitting back throwing the ball and leading the league."
Last season, the two got into a passing duel in November at Heinz Field. Roethlisberger threw for 387 yards, Brady 350 and each passed for three touchdowns. But Antwaan Randle El let one bounce off him that was intercepted and returned for a Patriots touchdown, and Brady ran for a fourth touchdown as New England took a big early lead and cruised to a 39-26 victory.
So it's not a question of whether Roethlisberger and the Steelers can match Brady throw for throw, but whether they can keep up with New England's production.
"Our goal is always to score as much as we can," Roethlisberger said. "It's hard because if I sit here and say I feel like we need to score every time we're going, that means I don't think our defense will do a good job, because I think our defense will do a great job. But, if you look just at the numbers, they put up a lot of points. Therefore, we need to put up a lot of points because that's what we want to do and need to do as an offense."
Almost overlooked in this Brady vs. Roethlisberger scenario is that the Steelers have the No. 2 pass defense in the NFL and No. 3 overall defense. But they were ranked highly last season, too, when Brady shredded them, so, if the Steelers are to beat favored New England, they likely will have to do it behind Roethlisberger's right arm and his bevy of young receivers.
"We're ready to score however many points we have to," said Wallace, who averages 104.3 yards receiving per game. "We don't have a choice but to be ready. You can't go out and score 7 points and beat the Patriots."
Receiver Hines Ward said he plans to play vs. the Patriots as does nose tackle Casey Hampton. Both played in the AFC championship game losses to New England after the seasons of 2001 and '04 at Heinz Field and had different recollections.
Said Ward: "I think it hurts more just because of the magnitude of the losses we had against them, getting a chance to go to a Super Bowl and having them in our own backyard and them beating us numerous times here. That taste stays in lot of guys' mouths. They remember those losses in the AFC championship game."
Said Hampton: "Man, I can't even remember two weeks ago. I definitely can't remember 10 years ago. I'm being serious about that. It's hard for me to remember last year's game, let alone 10 years ago."
Ward did not practice Wednesday because of a sprained ankle that forced him out of the game Sunday in Arizona. Hampton (shoulder) practiced after missing the past three games.
Others who did not practice for the Steelers: linebacker James Harrison (eye), nose tackle Chris Hoke (neck), offensive guard Doug Legursky (ankle) and linebacker Jason Worilds (quad). None of them is expected to play. Linebacker James Farrior (calf) was limited in practice.
Harrison still has slight swelling in his right orbital bone that was broken Oct. 2 at Houston and repaired surgically. He will not play next week nor until the bone is fully healed because of possible complications. Harrison said there's a danger that contact bacteria could shoot from the nose into the eye socket, which could cause major problems.
The Steelers said he would miss 4-6 weeks, and next week will be four.
• Offensive guard Chris Kemoeatu was fined $25,000 by the NFL for two fouls Sunday at Arizona. Kemoeatu said he was fined $15,000 for a late hit and $10,000 for a hands-to-the face penalty. He said his agent was appealing both fines.
• Hampton, on whether Brady and New England's top-rated offense are intimidating: "We're not intimidated by nobody because we feel like when we play our game we can beat anybody. That's never been the case with us."
Correction/Clarification: (Published October 28, 2011) New England quarterback Tom Brady has completed 160 of 237 passes this season. His number of completions was incorrect in a chart in Thursday's editions. ??????
First Published October 27, 2011 12:43 am