View Full Version : Worth the wait

11-02-2006, 07:26 AM
By Mike Prisuta
Thursday, November 2, 2006

He's thrown nearly twice as many interceptions (11) as touchdown passes (six). He's lost five of his last six starts. And he absolutely bottomed out last Sunday in Oakland (four interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns).
The fallout has been as irrational as it was predictable.

They're calling quarterback Ben Roethlisberger overrated on cable TV and calling for his head in Western Pennsylvania, or at least for the Steelers to play backup Charlie Batch.

Fortunately for the Steelers, Bill Cowher will not be deterred.

Roethlisberger will start this Sunday against the Denver Broncos.

As for what happened in Oakland, "Those things will make him a stronger player and a stronger person through the course of time," Cowher insisted.

Actually, they already have.

If you didn't fire a brick through the TV as cornerback Chris Carr was returning Roethlisberger's fourth interception 100 yards for the apparent game-clinching touchdown Sunday, you may have noticed a late-game metamorphosis taking place at the McAfee Coliseum.

Running a no-huddle attack with four wide receivers at his disposale and 9:32 remaining with which to eat into a 14-point deficit, Roethlisberger suddenly found a rhythm.

He hit his next nine passes in succession, the fifth of which got the Steelers into the end zone (a 25-yard screen to Willie Parker) and the eighth of which set the Steelers up inside the Oakland 1.

Had running back Najeh Davenport not false-started on third-and-goal from the 5 just after the two-minute warning, he may well have been on the receiving end of the TD pass that would have tied the game.

Had running back Verron Haynes not been injured, necessitating the need for Davenport in that situation against the Raiders, Steeler Nation might be hailing Roethlisberger today as the greatest comeback artist since John Elway.

Instead, it's "Ben shouldn't have played" and "Batch ought to be playing."

At his weekly media briefing Wednesday, Roethlisberger accepted the criticisms as part of the deal.

In a more private moment a couple of weeks back, when the cameras weren't rolling and the questions weren't coming at him faster than Derrick Burgess, Roethlisberger admitted such critiques can sting.

"I would love to play in this league for 10 or 15 years," he said. "But if I'm blessed enough to do that, there's probably going to be a losing season in there somewhere; it's going to happen in the NFL.

"And sometimes it gets to you. It's a little frustrating knowing that the last two years, looking at what we've done, getting to the AFC Championship Game and then winning a Super Bowl, and then all of a sudden you lose a couple of games early and it's almost like they almost forget everything you did.

"You can say as many times as you want that it doesn't matter what people think. I care about my teammates and my family, what those people think. But, still, subconsciously you care; if people come up and call you names, it's going to affect you.

"On the other hand, I know it's going to be OK. In this locker room, the team, we're all behind each other."

Roethlisberger is as confident in that as he is with an individual approach that was almost perfect for six quarters prior to Oakland.

"Charlie (Batch) and those guys laugh sometimes when I come to the sideline," Roethlisberger said Wednesday. "They're like, 'We can tell you're feeling it out there because you're just making throws that most people don't throw.'

"I felt that good against Kansas City and Atlanta."

That's Roethlisberger at his best.

The Steelers have no choice but to endure a slew of interceptions if necessary until that Roethlisberger re-emerges.