Roethlisberger OK with progress despite losses
Ben Roethlisberger’s numbers have never been better. The
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback is on pace to smash most of the
team single-season passing records he already owns.
Last week he broke Terry Bradshaw’s franchise mark for career
touchdown passes. Sunday night against Cincinnati he has a chance
to go over 4,000 yards for the third time. A recent commitment to
the no-huddle offense has given him a newfound freedom that has
quieted critics who wondered if he was cerebral enough to call his
Oh, and his wife is expecting the couple’s second child in the
And yet, in some ways Roethlisberger has never looked or sounded
more frustrated, at least when talking about his job.
The Steelers (5-8) are all but eliminated from the playoffs with
three long weeks to go, and Roethlisberger has spent the last month
on the defensive. If he’s not denying a report he may ask for a
trade in the offseason, he’s defending his relationship with
offensive coordinator Todd Haley.
Though Roethlisberger insists he’s still focused on avoiding the
first losing season of his football career – college, high school
and Pop Warner included – he also offered an olive branch of sorts
on Wednesday that could resonate into 2014 and beyond.
Amid the mounting losses and the almost weekly fending off of
rumors and innuendo, Roethlisberger and the offense he controls
have found a rhythm.
”I think the numbers speak for themselves,” Roethlisberger
said. ”I think we’re getting better every week. Obviously, the
ultimate goal is to win the game, but offensively our goal is to
get better every week and we’ve done that.”
The Steelers have gone over 20 points in six straight games, the
team’s longest streak since 2009. Rookie running back Le’Veon Bell
is becoming the reliable and versatile option the team envisioned
when it took him in the second round of the draft. Wide receiver
Antonio Brown is challenging Hines Ward’s club record for
receptions in one season. Jerricho Cotchery already has nine
touchdown catches, one less than the veteran wide receiver entire
total from 2008-12.
All this behind an offensive line has featured six different
starting combinations in 13 weeks.
”I think we’ve got a lot of pieces in place that can make that
next step,” Roethlisberger said. ”I think the cohesiveness that
we have on offense is a good thing and hopefully it can translate
into these last couple games and then into the offseason.”
Roethlisberger would prefer not to talk too much about the
future, particularly what could happen this spring as he and the
team figure out what to do about his contract status. He has two
years remaining on his current deal, though Pittsburgh often
reworks quarterback contracts two years out. With a base salary of
$12.1 million, he’s a bargain for a two-time Super Bowl winner.
Despite speculation he may look for an out, Roethlisberger
insists he is committed to Pittsburgh. There’s little doubt he
remains dedicated in meeting rooms, where the competitive guy who
has spent the last decade putting together a resume that is Hall of
Fame worthy remains as intense as ever.
”He’s been razor sharp making sure young guys understood what’s
at stake, making sure every man to a man knows their job, making
sure every o-lineman comes in new or old understands protection and
what needs to be done,” Brown said.
The Steelers hardly resemble the team Cincinnati smothered in a
20-10 victory back in September. Bell was out and the line, playing
its first game without injured All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey was
Not so much at the moment. Roethlisberger, who was sacked 36
times in the first nine weeks, has been dropped just four times in
the last four games. A defensive stop here or there and the
Steelers are in the mix instead of playing out the string.
The pain of missing out is palpable throughout the locker room,
no more so than on the face of the franchise, the one who is
simultaneously having the best and worst season of his life.
”I’m not going to look back yet,” Roethlisberger said. ”We’re
still looking forward … Maybe in the offseason we’ll look back
and scratch our head.”
NOTES: DE Brett Keisel (foot), T Marcus Gilbert (ankle), DE
Ziggy Hood (ankle), DT Steve McLendon (ankle) and S Troy Polamalu
(shoulder) did not practice Wednesday. …. T Kelvin Beachum
(knee), Cotchery (shoulder) and G David DeCastro (foot) were
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org .