Steelers veteran QB Roethlisberger is anxious to right the ship
With the Steelers' backs against the wall amid an 0-4 start, most expect quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to deliver the first punch to prove there's fight left in a team trying to resurrect its playoff hopes.
There's been plenty of talk about finding balance offensively. The defense has been chastised for its failure to create turnovers.
Yet, Roethlisberger shoulders the responsibility of reversing the fortunes of a team rooted at the bottom of the AFC North while its rivals — Baltimore, Cincinnati and Cleveland — all are perched atop the division at 3-2.
“I'll take it upon myself because that's my role as a quarterback and as a guy who has been here 10 years,” Roethlisberger said before Thursday's practice. “As a captain, I'll take the blame. I'll try to get the guys going and lead by example.”
Roethlisberger would rather the Steelers put his fumble in the final seconds that thwarted a comeback bid against Minnesota behind them. His turnovers against Chicago and Cincinnati dashed their chances at victory.
Roethlisberger has tasked himself with getting the Steelers focused to take on the once-dysfunctional New York Jets, who at 3-2 are only a game behind New England in the AFC East.
Still, Roethlisberger will try to avoid what has plagued two 2012 playoff quarterbacks, Atlanta's Matt Ryan and Houston's Matt Schaub, who along with Giants' quarterback Eli Manning, admit to pressing and playing outside their comfort zone as their teams struggle.
“You have to find ways, whatever that might be, to get it done,” said Roethlisberger, who is 4-2 against the Jets, including a 24-19 win in the 2010 AFC title game. “When the offense runs through you, it's natural to try to do more. I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing because sometimes it brings the best out of you.
“We feel as if we're close and we're getting closer every week. We just haven't found a way to get over the hump.
“It's not time to panic,” he said.”But it's time for us to get on the same page.”
For the two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback, it's about taking charge of a football team trying to navigate through a season ripped apart by injuries, including the losses of Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey and veteran linebacker Larry Foote.
“For me, it's about being visual,” Roethlisberger said. “I have to keep being me, a guy they see who is working hard every day and going about it the right way.”
However, Roethlisberger's teammates are looking to take some of the heat off their $100 million quarterback.
“When you get in a jam you naturally look to Ben,” wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery said. “He's the man. The image we have of him is taking the team downfield to beat Arizona in the Super Bowl.
“But this is the ultimate team sport. You lose and win together. You have to share the burden. You can't have one guy carrying the load of having lost the game even though the league has created an environment in which the quarterback is responsible for winning and losing.”
Safety Ryan Clark suggested earlier this week that Roethlisberger temper his enthusiasm in the pocket to prevent sacks and turnovers. Now, he concedes that Roethlisberger is squarely in the spotlight — like it or not.
“The quarterback doesn't have to be the leader, but the quarterback here is the leader,” Clark said. “More than anything, he is the leader of this offense. Defensively, we have a lot of older guys who have played longer than Ben.
“We have to take our cues from (Roethlisberger), but it's not all on him to lead this team. Ultimately, what comes out of Ben's mouth, his actions, his attitude – that will be the action and attitude of the team.”
Roethlisberger, though, is facing the undeniable reality that all eyes are on him as the Steelers try to fight their way back into contention against the rejuvenated Jets on Sunday.
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