Big Ben's long drive plays big role in victory for resurgent Steelers
By Alan Robinson
Published: Monday, Nov. 18, 2013, 10:33 p.m.
Now this would be the greatest comeback of Ben Roethlisberger's career.
As the Steelers (4-6) try to execute a long comeback drive from their 0-4 start, Sunday's win came with a rally of its own.
No quarterback in Steelers history has pulled off more game-winning, fourth-quarter comebacks than Roethlisberger, whose latest — and longest — such drive came in a potentially season-saving, 37-27 victory Sunday over the Lions.
Roethlisberger used up 8 minutes, 3 seconds to go 97 yards during a go-ahead drive out of the no-huddle offense that ended with his 1-yard, play-action touchdown throw to fullback Will Johnson. He later added a 20-yard touchdown throw to Jerricho Cotchery.
“I try to do my best to prepare myself for that situation,” Roethlisberger said. “I think when the game is on the line, you just love that situation.”
It was only the second such drive of 90 yards or more executed by Roethlisberger during his 20 such comeback wins; the first covered 92 yards against the Ravens in 2008.
Roethlisberger already has five more such comeback drives than Terry Bradshaw, who led the Steelers to four Super Bowl wins in six seasons from 1974-79. Since Roethlisberger came into the NFL in 2004, only Peyton Manning (22 drives) has led more. Eli Manning of the Giants also has 20; Tom Brady of the Patriots has five fewer.
This drive was particularly difficult because Roethlisberger pulled it off without a running game. The Steelers ran for only 4 yards on four carries during the 16-play possession.
The drive matched a 97-yarder against the Browns in 2006 as the longest Roethlisberger has engineered in any situation during his 10-year career.
“I didn't realize it was that long,” right guard David DeCastro said. “You're so focused there on every play, just trying to be successful. It wasn't like, ‘This is a long drive, we have to score.' ”
The Steelers' two games against AFC North rivals in the next 10 days could prove pivotal.
If they can win Sunday at Cleveland (4-6) — something they've done in 10 of their past 12 visits — their Thanksgiving night game at Baltimore (4-6) could end up deciding which team becomes the frontrunner for the sixth and final AFC playoff spot.
There are eight teams within one game of that playoff slot, but either the Steelers or Ravens could begin to emerge from the pack by winning the next two games. The Ravens are at home Sunday against the Jets (5-5).
“We still have to play every game like it is the most important,” Roethlisberger said. “I told you guys awhile ago that I wasn't going to quit. There was no quit in me or from anyone on the team (against the Lions).”
Since their record-setting 55-31 loss to the Patriots, the Steelers have beaten the Bills and Lions and are in position to win three straight for the first time since they took four in a row at midseason a year ago.
“We've still got a lot to prove,” said receiver Antonio Brown, who caught two touchdown passes during the first quarter.
At least they have an opportunity to prove it, something that didn't appear possible following their winless September.
Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.
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