Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Roethlisberger remains red-hot

Just like their previous game, the Ravens put a Steelers quarterback out with an injury. They accomplished little else on a day the Steelers made certain they won't leave Pittsburgh until the Super Bowl if they keep winning.

Still-unbeaten Ben Roethlisberger threw two touchdown passes in a run-heavy offense before being pulled from a 20-7 Steelers victory Sunday with an unspecified rib injury caused by a blindside hit on a scoring pass.

Pittsburgh (14-1) wrapped up home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs and a first-round bye. But a team already playing without six injured regulars sustained two more injuries, as Roethlisberger and cornerback Deshea Townsend (broken right hand) left during the fourth quarter.

``We have a lot of guys hurt right now, but now we control our own destiny,'' wide receiver Hines Ward said. ``Now teams are going to have to come in and deal with the weather, the field and our fans. You couldn't ask for a better situation.''

Except to be healthier.

Roethlisberger was assisted off the field, a large clump of grass sticking out of the left side of his face mask, after being leveled by Terrell Suggs on a 2-yard touchdown pass to Jerame Tuman. Suggs was penalized for roughing the passer, but the play did not touch off any incidents.

Roethlisberger, who wears a protective jacket around his ribs like many NFL quarterbacks do, returned to complete throws of 26 yards to Plaxico Burress and 9 to Jerome Bettis on Pittsburgh's next drive early in the fourth quarter. But he was replaced by Tommy Maddox midway through the drive because, coach Bill Cowher said, ``He grimaced every time he threw it.''

Roethlisberger's injury was the lone worrisome note for the Steelers as they ran their franchise-record winning streak to 13 games and all but eliminated the Ravens (8-7) from playoff contention.

``You don't like to lose, especially in this environment, in what pretty much is a playoff game for us,'' Ravens quarterback Kyle Boller said.

Roethlisberger (14 of 19, 211 yards, one interception) probably won't play Jan. 2 in Buffalo, but none of his teammates seemed overly concerned. Roethlisberger did not speak to reporters.

``Ben's a tough guy, and I'm not worried at all about Ben,'' Bettis said. ``He wanted to keep going. He's a competitor.''

Coincidentally, Roethlisberger became Pittsburgh's starter when Maddox hurt his right elbow Sept. 19 against the Ravens. Maddox did not play again until Sunday.

Bettis ran for 117 yards in his sixth 100-yard game this season -- all in place of Duce Staley (hamstring), who sat out for the sixth time in eight games. Bettis also moved past Eric Dickerson on the NFL career rushing list with 13,294 yards to fourth on the career rushing list and closed to within 60 yards of his ninth 1,000-yard season.

``To go past Eric Dickerson is amazing, considering my role (as a backup) when the season started,'' Bettis said.

Pittsburgh is assured of matching the best record in franchise history (14-2 in 1978) even if it loses at Buffalo.

``They've been on a roll and it doesn't seem like they're stopping,'' Ravens safety Ed Reed said. ``But I still think we're a better team than we displayed.''

Burress returned from a four-week layoff with a sore hamstring and made an immediate impact with three catches for 97 yards, including a 36-yard touchdown pass from Roethlisberger as Pittsburgh drove 80 yards in five plays on its opening possession.

Three times the Ravens advanced to at least the Pittsburgh 35 without scoring, with Jamal Lewis held to 26 yards on 14 carries. The Ravens scored only eight touchdowns while going 3-5 on the road.

Baltimore briefly tied it at 7 on Jamal Lewis' 5-yard TD run, but Joey Porter's interception of Boller's tipped pass led to Jeff Reed's 23-yard field goal that made it 10-7.

The Steelers took control by starting the second half with a 14-play, 71-yard drive that featured 12 consecutive runs ahead of Tuman's touchdown catch.

``We came out and hit them with some good run plays and I think we realized, `Hey, these plays are working, let's stick to them they stop them,' `` fullback Dan Kreider said.

Roethlisberger makes it hard for us to loose. He is throwing like a seasoned pro. Lets keep up the good work Steelers!

Monday, December 20, 2004

Making it 12!

From Sports.yahoo.com:
The main thing separating Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning on Saturday was the Pittsburgh Steelers' rookie quarterback made his biggest plays with the game on the line.

Roethlisberger threw for a season-high 316 yards and hit four straight passes to set up Jerome Bettis' game-winning 1-yard run with 4:57 to go, leading the Pittsburgh Steelers to a 33-30 win over the New York Giants.

``I am amazed, but he is an awesome quarterback,'' receiver Antwaan Randle said after Roethlisberger led the Steelers (13-1) to a team-record 12th straight win and handed the Giants (5-9) a seventh straight loss.

``He might have a long way to go, but he has this great poise,'' said Randle El, who caught five passes for 149 yards and a TD and also threw his first career TD. ``You can have all the ability in the world but if you don't have to the poise to do it, it won't happen.''

Roethlisberger, who has not lost in 25 straight college and pro starts, showed his poise in moving the Steelers from their 33 to the New York 8 after a Tiki Barber 1-yard run had given New York a 30-26 lead.

``He has been making good decisions with games on the line,'' coach Bill Cowher said of the 11th pick in the NFL draft. ``In the fourth quarter, he has a feel for the game and an understanding of the game and he manages it well.''

Until Saturday, Manning has struggled in losing his first four starts. The No. 1 pick in the draft was horrible in his last two games and seemingly had lost his confidence.

Using a game plan filled with plays he liked, Manning found himself against the NFL's top-ranked defense. He threw two touchdown passes and set up Barber's go-ahead touchdown with three completions of 15 yards or more.

``I had fun because we were getting some stuff done,'' said Manning, who completed 16 of 23 for 182 yards. ``We were making plays, running the ball, the line was protecting, receivers were making catching. We got in a rhythm and it was back to playing football again. It was a good feeling.''

Roethlisberger hit five passes of 34 or more yards in a much-hyped matchup with Manning, who only had one over 20 yards.

The two talked before the game and they congratulated each other after it was over.

``I don't ever want to remember what it is like to lose,'' said Roethlisberger, who also threw two interceptions.

Randle El caught a 35-yard touchdown pass and threw a 10-yard shovel pass to Verron Haynes for a touchdown. Jeff Reed kicked four field goals, Hines Ward had nine catches for 134 yards despite finishing the game with a hip pointer and Bettis ran for 140 yards for the Steelers.

Manning threw touchdown passes of 2 yards to Jeremy Shockey and 1 yard to Marcellus Rivers. He also hit Amani Toomer with two 17-yard passes and he added a 15-yarder to Ike Hilliard to set up Barber's go-ahead TD run.

Manning was sacked on a 2-point conversion attempt.

Roethlisberger then sandwiched passes of 9 and 11 yards to Ward around a dump off to Bettis before hitting Randle El for 36 yards to the Giants 8. Three straight runs by Bettis got the ball in the end zone.

Willie Williams picked off a deep throw to a tripped Toomer on the next series and the Steelers ran out the clock.

Giants receiver Willie Ponder took the opening kickoff 91 yards for a score. It was the Giants' first game-opening kickoff return for a touchdown in a regular-season home game in their 80-year history.

The Steelers used trickery to tie the game with Randle El making the shovel pass after taking a lateral from Roethlisberger.

Manning, who had led the Giants to only one touchdown in 45 possessions since replacing Kurt Warner at quarterback, hit Shockey for a TD on the next series.

Manning gave New York a 24-23 lead with his TD pass to Rivers.

Reed put Pittsburgh ahead 26-24 with is 28-yarder early in the fourth quarter.

Roethlisberger is surely going to become one of the all time greats in the game!

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Bettis does whatever is asked of him

By Teresa Varley, Steelers.com
To know Jerome Bettis is to know one thing. If you ask him to do something he is going to do it. And not just do it, but do it to perfection.

When the 2004 season started Bettis was asked to take a backseat in the Steelers offense. He would be the guy to pound the ball in to the end zone anywhere inside the five-yard line, while Duce Staley was getting the carries.

Some players of his stature might complain. They might cause turmoil in the locker room being asked to take that type of reduced role. But that isn’t Bettis’ style. You will never hear him complain, not in public or private.

“My whole career, I have been the feature back,” said Bettis. “This is something I have grown to work within in terms of understanding what my role is and really, really trying to excel in that role. It is one of those situations that I am finding a way to flourish in the role that has been given to me. I understand, and I think it is the best situation for this football team.”

So how did he respond on the field? In the Steelers first game against the Raiders Bettis carried the ball five times for one-yard. Some might look at that and initially think, ouch. Not really what you expect from a future Hall of Famer. But when you look closely, three of those carries were for touchdowns, the only ones scored by the offense in a 24-21 victory.

Fast-forward to the Eagles game on November 7. Staley suffered a hamstring injury the week before and would be sidelined. So it was time to get The Bus in gear again. No more goal line only. This time he would be carrying the load. And carry it he did.

He carried the ball 33 times for 149 yards against a stingy Eagles defense. It would be the start of four-straight 100-yard games for him. He just kept churning them out, coming through for the offense with what they needed.

“You can’t say enough about what Jerome means to this team,” said quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. “If he is not on the field, it is his leadership. When he is on the field, it is his hard running and his leadership. You can’t say enough about what Jerome means to this team.”

When Staley returned to the line-up two weeks ago against Jacksonville, Bettis took the back seat again. He knew it was the right thing, no matter how much he wanted to keep on playing.

“You can look at it as you were demoted, and everything is negative and you look at everything from a down side saying this is what I am relegated to, and they are trying to get me out of here,” said Bettis. “Or you can look at it say this gives me an opportunity to stay fresh and when I do get the opportunity, take advantage of it. So, be ready, go to practice excited about what you are doing, and just be ready. That is the attitude I have taken with the situation. I have always been ready. When I get in practice, I am practicing as if I am going to get 30 carries. If it doesn’t happen, then it doesn’t. But if it does I am ready for it and it has been paying off for me.

On Sunday against the Jets Bettis was ready and there was nobody that made the impact he did on the game. Bettis threw for a touchdown and ran for a touchdown, playing mostly in the second half, all while going over 13,000 yards for his career.

It was vintage Bettis. Doing whatever was asked of him and as always, doing it to perfection.