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01-20-2009, 11:32 AM
Big Ben's scrambles produce one key play after another
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


Ben Roethlisberger was the first quarterback to win his first 13 starts, the youngest to win a Super Bowl, the fastest to 50 victories, and now another historical marker looms.

Roethlisberger can become only the second quarterback to win his second Super Bowl by age 26. Tom Brady is the only one to accomplish that.

He helped put the Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII with the kind of performance that his teammates have come to expect; not with big passing numbers, but by making the plays when they counted against one of the NFL's toughest defenses.

"I tell people all the time, he's a good quarterback but he's one heck of a football player," receiver Nate Washington said yesterday after a team meeting. "There's a difference in those two. That's what Ben does, he prides himself on making plays."

The highlight of the AFC championship game Sunday night -- before Troy Polamalu's knockout touchdown return -- occurred early in the second quarter. Roethlisberger, on third-and-9, stepped forward in the pocket against a blitz and then to his left. He was about to throw the ball away when he spotted Santonio Holmes on the right. Holmes had inside position on cornerback Fabian Washington.

Roethlisberger lofted a pass inside, where only Holmes could catch it.

"I don't even remember what play was called," Roethlisberger said. "I remember scrambling left and looking back to see if anyone was coming, and no one was. I stepped up and was really getting ready to throw it away. I knew Santonio was over there, I was going to throw it over his head and, at the last minute, the guy's back was turned and I just threw it where he could make a play. When you get him the ball, he'll do the rest."

Holmes caught the pass at Baltimore's 47 and ran through and away from Ravens defenders to complete a 65-yard touchdown for a 13-0 lead.

It was Roethlisberger's second touchdown pass in two postseason games with no interceptions. He has a 90.8 passer rating in those games and should have had two more touchdown passes if Limas Sweed, Willie Parker or Holmes had not dropped the ball.

"Ben was Ben," was how coach Mike Tomlin described his touchdown toss. "He created an opportunity and found Santonio."

Roethlisberger hurt the Ravens with his ability to scramble away from their pressure and complete passes, even though they sacked him four times.

"We didn't want him escaping too much because that's where he tends to make most of his plays," said Baltimore linebacker Terrell Suggs. "He's a good quarterback. It's his ability to make plays is why he is who he is, so you take your hat off to him. They're the AFC champions, and he's a good quarterback."

Said Roethlisberger, "I've always enjoyed getting out of the pocket, rolling out, making plays. It's hard for guys to cover for a long time as you saw tonight. We play backyard football sometimes."

With Hines Ward out, Roethlisberger completed two big passes on a field goal-scoring drive that put the Steelers ahead by nine in the third quarter. On third down at his 24, he completed a 20-yard pass over the middle to Carey Davis. On second-and-24 from his 30, he completed a 30-yard pass to Heath Miller on the left.

"Ben is a special guy," Tomlin said. "He is at his best in the midst of the most difficult adversity, in other years and in this year. … He recognized the magnitude of the game, and he did what his team needed him to do. He was very efficient and made great decisions. He was a special guy for us."

Roethlisberger did not have a great day passing in his first Super Bowl, but he did things to help the Steelers beat Seattle, 21-10. He ran around end and dived for a 1-yard touchdown on third down to put them in front, 7-3, in the second quarter after he completed a 37-yard pass to Ward on third-and-28 that carried to the 3.

He took another shot when he was sandwiched by two Ravens while throwing a pass Sunday. As a doctor and trainer checked on him, Byron Leftwich warmed up on the sideline. Roethlisberger did not miss a snap.

"It hurt. It still does," he said right after the game. "But winning always takes away a little bit of the pain. I always say it's going to take a cart to get me off the field."

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09020/943058-66.stm