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12-08-2010, 06:21 AM
Steelers report: Inside slant
The Sports Xchange
Dec. 8, 2010

Ben Roethlisberger, who now has a broken nose to go with his broken foot, will start Sunday against Cincinnati at Heinz Field when the Steelers try to maintain their position as the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs.

Roethlisberger helped put the Steelers in first place in the AFC North with his third game-winning drive in the fourth quarter or overtime this season (23rd in his career), although Troy Polamalu gets much of the credit for allowing him to do it.

But the quarterback paid another price. He had surgery Monday to repair his broken nose, the result of a hand to the face from Baltimore's Haloti Ngata, who was quickly fined $15,000 by the league.

Thus, Roethlisberger will play against the Bengals with a clear protective shield over the front of his helmet along with the special shoe with metal plates to protect the right foot that was broken in the previous game.

Roethlisberger is unbowed.

"I'm sure there's going to be some level of discomfort," coach Mike Tomlin said. "I don't think it's going to keep him out of football in any form or fashion.

"You know, he's a competitor. I think I even said it after the game: We expect that from him. Not that it goes unappreciated; we just expect that from him. He expects that from himself. He's our quarterback. AFC North football is competitive. The series against the Ravens is a competitive one. No one's going to leave that stadium extremely comfortable, on either side. We understand what playing those guys is about. He delivered for us."

Hardly anyone anymore brings up Roethlisberger's troubles from March in Georgia, especially in Pittsburgh. He has been a model citizen, by all accounts, both in the locker room and on and off the field. The Steelers say he has become a better teammate, and the media has noticed a kinder, gentler, more cooperative Ben.

His statistics through it all -- the scandal and the abuse he has taken on the field this season -- have not suffered for it. It included chants from fans in Baltimore of "She said no!"

Roethlisberger's stats this season come close to what he has delivered consistently throughout his career -- a 61.6 completion percent, 8.05 yards per attempt, 13 touchdowns to five interceptions and a 95.7 passer rating.

--Pittsburgh's 13-10 victory in Baltimore served nearly as a preliminary playoff game because of how it changed the status of the two AFC North teams.

The Steelers now are in the driver's seat not only for the division title but for one of the conference's two playoff byes.

At 9-3, Pittsburgh holds a one-game lead over Baltimore. The Steelers also hold tiebreaker edges with a better record within the division, 3-1 to the Ravens' 2-2, and within the AFC, 7-2 to the Ravens' 6-3.

"With four games left, it's in our control and we don't need any help," Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward said. "We can't ask for anything better than that."

Pittsburgh, which lost at home in the fourth game to Baltimore, evened the score by coming from behind Sunday night. The Steelers now play three straight at home before finishing up in Cleveland on Jan. 2. Three of the opponents have losing records, starting with the Bengals (2-10) on Sunday.

Looming large, though, are the Jets on Dec. 19. The Steelers could lose that game as long as they win their other three, and even if the Ravens sweep their final four, Pittsburgh would win the AFC North Division.

"Basically, we're in control of our own destiny," linebacker James Harrison said. "As long s we do what we got to do, everything will be OK."

Pittsburgh has won the division in two of coach Mike Tomlin's previous three seasons, in 2007 and 2008, the latter when the Steelers won their sixth Super Bowl. They were 9-7 last season but lost a tiebreaker to Baltimore for a wild-card playoff berth.

Only two teams in NFL history have entered the playoffs as a wild-card team and won three on the road and then a Super Bowl -- the Steelers after the 2005 season and the Giants after the 2007 season.

Copyright (C) 2010 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.

Steelers report: Notes, quotes
The Sports Xchange
Dec. 8, 2010

--Pittsburgh now has an 8-7 record in Baltimore, as the Ravens failed to sweep the two-game series that began in 1996. Baltimore won both games in 2006. The Steelers have won both in 1997, 1998, 2002 and 2008 -- and after the 2008 season, they beat the Ravens again in the AFC Championship Game.

--The Steelers will sign another punter in the next day or two after losing Daniel Sepulveda for the rest of the season with a torn ACL. It's the third time the lefty has had that injury to his right knee, beginning in college. He missed the entire Super Bowl season of 2008 with a torn ACL.

Kicker Shaun Suisham punted three times after Sepulveda's injury and averaged a gross of 39.8 yards and a net of 34.7, averages that would have been higher except for a few penalties.

--Ben Roethlisberger lined up often in the shotgun formation Sunday night to minimize the stress on his broken right foot. Of his 31 snaps in the first half, he took 26 in the shotgun formation. He lined up more often under center in the second half.

Copyright (C) 2010 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.

Steelers report: Strategy and personnel
The Sports Xchange
Dec. 8, 2010


--QB Byron Leftwich still has not taken a snap despite all of Ben Roethlisberger's physical problems this season. Leftwich, the No. 2 quarterback, was injured in the final preseason game and did not get to start as planned in the first four games for Roethlisberger.

--RB Rashard Mendenhall topped 1,000 yards for the second consecutive season, but his average per carry has dipped to 3.9, lower than his 4.6-yard average last season.

--RB Isaac Redman is getting more involved in the offense and at critical times, as his winning 9-yard TD pass in Baltimore on third down showed. He had two receptions and four runs in that game, while Mewelde Moore had no carries, one catch.

--TE Heath Miller is doubtful to play on Sunday because of the concussion he received in Baltimore on Sunday. Miller has missed just two games in his six-season career, both in 2008.

--TE Matt Spaeth likely will start Sunday for Heath Miller. Spaeth has not played in the past two games because of a concussion. All five of his receptions have come in the last four games he played.

--WR Mike Wallace needs 132 yards to reach 1,000 yards receiving. He is tied with Hines Ward with 41 receptions and could become the first receiver since 1998 to lead the team in receptions by himself other than Ward.

--WR Hines Ward caught one pass in Baltimore for 13 yards. He also dropped one. He has three 100-yard games this season; in the other nine games, he has 177 yards total.

--DE Brett Keisel made it through a full game Sunday for the first time in the past seven and reported that he felt fine afterward. Keisel had been slowed by a hamstring/calf injury.

--CB Bryant McFadden has been struggling with a hamstring injury, according to teammate Ryan Clark. Coach Mike Tomlin did not list McFadden among the injured players Tuesday.

--OT Flozell Adams has a mild high ankle sprain, according to coach Mike Tomlin. He may not play Sunday, and he would be replaced by Trai Essex.

--P Jeremy Kapinos signed with the Steelers in Tuesday after they worked out three punters in the morning. Kapinos, 26, played one game for the Colts this season. He spent last season in Green Bay, where he averaged 43.8 yards on 66 punts. He played at Penn State. Kapinos also will hold for placekicks.

--WR Emmanuel Sanders has locked down the job as No. 3 wide receiver. He has made 12 of his 16 receptions and scored both of his touchdowns in the past four games.

--K Shaun Suisham's 45-yard field goal in Baltimore on Sunday went into the wind, the same direction in which the Ravens decided not to try a 49-yarder to tie it. Suisham is 6-for-6 with the Steelers in three games, five from beyond 40 yards.

--DE Ziggy Hood's sack on Sunday was the first this season and the second of his career. The first-round pick in 2009 started his sixth straight game for Aaron Smith, who is recovering from triceps surgery and hopes to return for the playoffs.

--LB James Farrior has sacks in three consecutive games for the first time in his career. He has four sacks, two from tying his career high of six, set in 2007.

--WR Antwaan Randle El's role has been reduced mainly to occasional punt returner. The No. 3 receiver through the first half of the season, he now is No. 4 or No. 5 and had one pass thrown at him in the past three games with no receptions.


C-plus -- Considering the defense and the shape Ben Roethlisberger was in, the Steelers did a nice job and won the game with a third-down touchdown pass from the 9-yard line. Roethlisberger, who entered the game with a broken right foot and left with a broken nose, completed 22 of 38 for 253 yards with one interception to go with that TD. He was sacked three times. But Roethlisberger completed some key passes, and one of his most impressive moves was to shove the ball out incomplete when he was out of the pocket and wrapped up by Terrell Suggs.

C-minus -- Again, the opponent had something to do with the Steelers' meager statistics on the ground: 24 carries, 54 yards, 2.3-yard average, long of 12 and no scores. Pittsburgh could have tied the game early in the fourth quarter when it had a first down at the 2. But Isaac Redman was spilled for a 2-yard loss, and then Rashard Mendenhall (19 carries, 45 yards) lost 1 yard, and the Steelers ended up kicking a field goal.

B -- The Ravens hit two passes for 61 and 67 yards, a big chunk of Joe Flacco's 266 yards passing (17 of 33). Flacco also threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin and was not intercepted. However, the Steelers sacked Flacco four times, and the last one turned the game their way when Troy Polamalu blitzed and forced him to fumble, a turnover that led to the winning touchdown.

A -- Ray Rice is the only runner to have a 100-yard game against the Steelers in the past 46, but he was held to 32 yards on nine carries, and the Ravens managed just 43 yards on 20 carries. Among those were three scrambles by Flacco that picked up 15 yards. The Ravens did not have a fullback dressed for the game.

B -- Baltimore averaged 15.7 yards on three punt returns, and the Steelers had several penalties on punts and kickoffs. But Shaun Suisham made both field-goal tries, including one of 45 yards and he punted decently three times after Daniel Sepulveda was lost with a torn ACL.

B-plus -- Pittsburgh stuck to its guns, never wavered even after falling behind early and playing catch-up the entire game, a tribute to the staff. Dick LeBeau called more blitzes in this game than he did in an earlier loss to Baltimore at Heinz Field. It paid off in a big way when he had Polamalu blitzing on what Pittsburgh thought would be a run, and Polamalu forced Joe Flacco to fumble when he hit him from the blind side, setting up the winning touchdown.

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