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Robinson: High praise for Ben

| Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
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Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger prepares to take a snap against Vikings on Sunday, Sept. 29, 2013, in London.

Bill Polian, a six-time NFL executive of the year, recently saw one of the greatest quarterbacking performances he's witnessed during more than a half-century of football watching.

He called it “phenomenal” and “unbelievable.”

Peyton Manning's seven touchdown passes on the NFL's opening night?

No, an under-siege Ben Roethlisberger's play as he nearly rallied the Steelers from a 17-point deficit in the fourth quarter during their 34-27 loss to the Vikings in London last Sunday.

Polian marveled at how Roethlisberger completed 36 of 51 passes for 383 yards, one touchdown and one interception in London despite being forced to improvise on nearly every play behind an offensive line that could barely protect him.

“Ben Roethlisberger put on the greatest single individual display, south of Peyton Manning and Tom Brady and Drew Brees, that I have seen in a long time — maybe in my entire career,” said Polian, who drafted Manning with the Colts 15 years ago.

Polian, appearing on SiriusXM NFL Radio, wasn't done praising Roethlisberger, who has operated without running game support or reliable pass protection all season.

“He was just phenomenal,” Polian said. “He avoided or shrugged off at least four sacks. He made plays down the field that were unbelievable, and he was under duress all night from snap 1.

“Their offensive line is in shambles, and their left tackle (Mike Adams) couldn't block anybody — he was beaten from word 1 virtually all night — and they didn't give him any help, which made it even more difficult.”

Former Steelers running back Merril Hoge, the ESPN analyst, recently told the Tribune-Review that Roethlisberger's offensive lines during the 2005 and 2008 seasons probably were the worst of any Super Bowl winner.

Now, with even less protection, Roethlisberger is completing nearly 64 percent of his passes overall and 53 percent while under pressure.

“Ben's performance was absolutely unbelievable. And the fact they were one play away from tying the game tells you a heck of a lot about his competitiveness and toughness and his ability to make plays,” Polian said. “But he's not lasting the season if they don't shore up that left tackle spot. It's that simple.”

The Steelers will find out starting next Sunday against the Jets if the newly acquired Levi Brown is considered to be shoring up.

Polian also likes rookie running back Le'Veon Bell, saying, “He is a lot better than I thought he was looking at film.”

“He really gives them hope for the future,” said Polian, who was the general manager of the Bills and Panthers and president of the Colts. “He's got good feet and vision and great finish and great size. He's going to be the type of back that they want.”

Changing times?

Looking way ahead: If the Steelers keep struggling, there is a good chance NBC will flex out of the Dec. 15 Sunday night game against the Bengals at Heinz Field. If so, the game would shift to an afternoon start.

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at arobinson@tribweb.com or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.

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