Gorman: Roethlisberger reigns in the rain
The way Ben Roethlisberger ran out of the tunnel Sunday night at Heinz Field gave Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey a feeling that something special was about to happen.
“He was so excited, pumping up the crowd and throwing his hands in the air,” Pouncey said. “Normally, he just runs out.”
The constant downpour, a quarterback's worst nightmare, did nothing to diminish Roethlisberger's revelry.
Roethlisberger didn't just rain on the Kansas City Chiefs. He made it pour, completing 22 of 27 passes for 300 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions in the Steelers' 43-14 victory.
Perhaps it explains why Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley said this about Roethlisberger following the home opener against Cincinnati, which was played in similar sloppy weather:
“When you get in conditions like that, I believe Ben's the best ‘mudder' in the league,” Haley said. “Sometimes, I root for bad weather.”
When told he's considered a tough mudder, Roethlisberger simply smiles and shrugs.
“I've been called that for a long time,” Roethlisberger said. “I guess it's growing up in Northwest Ohio. Just because I'm used to it doesn't mean I like it.”
Roethlisberger said he hates playing in the rain.
“You think about when you want to be a great offense, you want perfect weather conditions, whether that's a dome or no rain and no wind, things like that,” he said. “Two home games so far, and we've had more rain than I can remember for a long time.”
There's one thing Roethlisberger hates more than the rain, and that's losing.
The 34-3 defeat at Philadelphia last week — when he was outplayed by Eagles rookie Carson Wentz — left the Steelers with a sour taste. That might explain why they have won 11 consecutive games after a loss with No. 7 under center.
But that was last week, which is ancient history to Roethlisberger. He compared it to driving a car with no rearview mirror. He has a short memory but throws a nice deep ball.
That was evident on Roethlisberger's first pass, which went for 47 yards to Sammie Coates. That was by design as the Steelers knew the Chiefs would be keying on running back Le'Veon Bell, making his debut after a three-game NFL suspension.
There also might have been some intention to test cornerback Marcus Peters.
What stood out is Roethlisberger's trust in Coates, who failed to fight for an underthrown pass against the Bengals. They spoke about that play, and it obviously had an effect on the second-year receiver. Coates had a step on Peters, came back for the ball and won the jump ball for a big gain.
Even though that drive ended with Roethlisberger getting sacked at midfield for a 5-yard loss, the stage was set for his 46th career 300-yard passing game.
“From the jump, he came out and he was point-on,” Steelers tight end Xavier Grimble said, “which is not even abnormal for a guy like that.”
A guy who showed his killer instinct, leading the Steelers to score off every turnover.
After Stephon Tuitt stripped Spencer Ware for a fumble, the Steelers took over at the Chiefs' 32. On a third-and-9 at the 31, Roethlisberger lined up in the shotgun and found a wide-open Darrius Heyward-Bey for a touchdown.
Following Jarvis Jones' interception that was returned to the Kansas City 4, Roethlisberger fired a pass to Antonio Brown for a 15-0 lead. On the next series, the Steelers split three tight ends wide left as decoys and Roethlisberger found Brown again, this time on a deep post for a 38-yard scoring pass.
The Steelers showed just how dangerous their offense can be with Bell giving Ben a full complement of skill players — despite playing without starting left guard Ramon Foster and losing right tackle Marcus Gilbert to an ankle injury.
By the end of the first quarter, Roethlisberger had completed 7 of 10 passes for 135 yards and three touchdowns, which tied Bubby Brister for a team record.
Roethlisberger was perfect in the second quarter and, at one point, had 13 consecutive completions.
At the two-minute warning, the Steelers went to the no-huddle offense and Roethlisberger worked out of the shotgun. He completed four consecutive passes, to tight end Jesse James for 21 yards, to Coates for gains of 9 and 3 yards and then to James for a 9-yard touchdown and 29-0 lead.
At halftime, Roethlisberger had completed 14 of 17 passes for 210 yards and four touchdowns for a 157.7 passer rating. He added a fifth touchdown pass, a 30-yarder to Markus Wheaton, early in the third quarter.
“When he steps on the field, it's about winning,” Grimble said. “He's got one job to do. He's the quarterback, and it's his job to lead us to the promised land. He don't blink. There's going to be rain, there's going to be snow sometimes. We don't ever talk about that. We talk about how when we were kids, we used to like playing in the rain. We used to want those moments. He makes it fun for everybody.”
Until he overthrew Grimble in the left corner of the end zone midway through the fourth quarter, Roethlisberger had more touchdowns than incompletions.
Not that he knew.
“I had no clue, until you told me,” Roethlisberger said. “All I know is the score.”
If we're keeping score, Roethlisberger is 2-0 at home in the rain this season. That makes him a tough mudder, one who reigns in the rain.