ShareThis Page
News

Kevin Gorman: Rest assured, Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger has more magic left

Kevin Gorman
| Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017, 8:35 p.m.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger walks from the field after throwing an interception returned for a touchdown by the Jaguars' Telvin Smith during the third quarter Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017, at Heinz Field.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger walks from the field after throwing an interception returned for a touchdown by the Jaguars' Telvin Smith during the third quarter Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017, at Heinz Field.

Ben Roethlisberger always has been tough to tackle in the pocket, an escape artist at football's most important position.

We've become so accustomed to watching the Steelers quarterback slip free of a sack and turn it into a touchdown that it was stunning to see him struggle Sunday in the loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

What was most revealing was watching Roethlisberger respond to his first career five-interception game with a flippant statement: “Maybe I don't have it anymore.”

Roethlisberger said it without provocation but wasn't prepared for the reaction caused by that comment, one he admitted Wednesday was made out of frustration.

“To me, that's the hardest thing about having a bad game, letting the fans down, letting my teammates down,” Roethlisberger said. “That's what bothers me the most. It's hard to do that. It's frustrating. That bothers me way more than my own pride and things.”

NFL analysts crucified Roethlisberger for that remark, for contemplating retirement in the offseason and for publicly criticizing running back Le'Veon Bell and receivers Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant.

ESPN's Stephen A. Smith urged Roethlisberger to retire, saying, “He has been playing like someone who doesn't want to play” and “it appears that his love for the game has dissipated.”

That struck a chord with Roethlisberger, whose cocksure attempt to turn the tables on the media Wednesday proved only his pride has been wounded.

“That's fine. They can question me. I don't question myself. The ones that are close to me don't question me. That's what matters,” Roethlisberger said. “No offense to any of you guys, but it doesn't really matter to me how you guys question me or the ‘professional talking heads' on the other sports networks that are out there that are supposed experts on things like that.”

Roethlisberger was reminded he's the one who opened Pandora's box. He never has shied away from taking blame for a loss, but this was different. This was the franchise quarterback and team captain, a future Hall of Famer, publicly questioning whether his best days in the NFL are behind him.

But that's Big Ben. He's a master of shifting the storyline, just as he did when asked if the Steelers needed a shakeup to wake up.

“We're still atop the AFC North. We're still right there in the hunt in the AFC,” Roethlisberger said. “I think you guys are much more panicked than we are. As you can see, I'm not real shaken by last week or nervous or worried. We're ready to play football this week.”

Even so, he was taken aback that anyone would question his confidence, let alone his commitment.

“To be confident?” Roethlisberger said. “Two Super Bowls, 100-and-some wins, 300-some — I don't even know my stats — but I've been playing this game longer than you've probably been covering it.”

My guess is Big Ben is well aware he has 126 victories and 307 touchdowns in his career, especially after he admitted to looking up the history of passers with five-pick games.

But it's not Roethlisberger's confidence that should be a concern. Rather, it's the desire to disprove his critics.

Last season, he answered one of his worst performances (at Philadelphia) with his best. He completed 22 of 27 passes (81.5 percent) for 300 yards, with five touchdowns and no interceptions against the Kansas City Chiefs, who the Steelers visit Sunday.

Roethlisberger compared it to driving without a rearview mirror, making the bad game disappear.

That's what escape artists do: divert your attention while they work their magic.

If Big Ben still has it — and I believe he does — he has all the motivation in the world to show it Sunday.

Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at kgorman@tribweb.com or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.

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.

click me