Motivated quarterback Roethlisberger fights to prop up Steelers
The Steelers know all about Ben Roethlisberger, the Super Bowl version. Big-play Ben. No-play-is-truly-over Ben. Ben in the no-huddle offense, calling his own plays, seemingly making everything around him work.
But this is below-.500 Ben, and it's obvious he hates it. For the first time in his 10-year career, Roethlisberger figures to end a season as a loser.
As his former coach, Bill Cowher, said: “He is a competitor. Put him in the fourth quarter, and I will take that quarterback over anybody in the league.”
The trouble is the Steelers (5-8) were a play or two away from winning in the fourth quarter five times this season, and they won only once. Over the past two seasons, that record is 2-9. As a starter, Roethlisberger is 12-14 since last season.
“They're just one play away,” Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said Wednesday, succinctly summing up the Steelers' season.
Their record, and all those close losses, are troubling Roethlisberger, who was terse and grouchy while talking Wednesday with reporters. The Steelers must win their final three just to get to .500. Two losses would leave them at 6-10, a record Roethlisberger never thought he would see.
“I'm motivated to win,” he said of the game Sunday against the Bengals (9-4). “I assume you'd have to ask everyone else in here what their motivation is … but I'm motivated to play as hard as I can.”
Even amid the losing and never-ending suggestions he doesn't get along with offensive coordinator Todd Haley, Roethlisberger might be having his best season.
“The numbers speak for themselves,” he said. “I think we're getting better every week. … Sacks have gone down. Turnovers have gone down. Points have gone up.”
He is on pace for the most passing yards and completions and second-most touchdown passes of his career. In his past four games, he has 11 touchdown passes and no interceptions. He is the only player on offense to play every snap, and he could play in all 16 regular-season games for only the second time.
“He's been razor sharp, making sure the young guys know what's at stake, being a general and making sure every man to a man is on the job,” receiver Antonio Brown said. “He's been playing razor football.”
When veterans such as Hines Ward, Aaron Smith and James Farrior patrolled the locker room, Roethlisberger's attempts to show leadership often gained little to no traction. As Brown said, “There were a lot of older guys with the leadership.”
But with so many younger players on the team, Roethlisberger — now 31, secure in his role and a husband and father — appears to be getting his message across.
“But now I think he's doing a great job of taking the younger guys under his wing and showing the guys how it's supposed to be done,” Brown said. “(He's) being fluid and communicating with the offense and keeping everybody in tune with what's going on. That's the type of thing we're going to need from him.”
Especially if losing-record Ben is to become Super Bowl Ben again.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.