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Old 10-16-2006, 02:47 PM   #1
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Default Micheal Smith on the Steelers

Reports of Steelers' demise greatly exagerratedBy Michael Smith

PITTSBURGH -- It's easy to forget because of all he's accomplished so early in his career, but Ben Roethlisberger is still only 24 years old. Just a kid. Still learning what it takes to be a pro quarterback. Lately he's been learning how to handle adversity in the form of a losing streak, something he hasn't experienced a lot after winning 27 of his first 31 starts.

"We set the bar high," Roethlisberger said Sunday night. "We were bound to lose some games."

Roethlisberger's one of the league's young stars so he pretty much has it all except for all the answers. And he knows it. So, he asks for help. He did it after his historic rookie season when he needed advice on how to sustain his success into his sophomore year and he did it last week when he tapped mentors Jim Kelly and Dan Marino for some guidance through his recent struggles.

"I didn't come into the NFL thinking that I was going to win every single game I ever played," Roethlisberger said. "But the important thing is how you bounce back."

After a 45-7 rout of the Chiefs Sunday, yeah, you might say Big Ben and the Steelers are back.

And not just back, but back in the thick of things: The end to Pittsburgh's three-game losing streak coincided with division rivals Baltimore and Cincinnati both losing, leaving the Steelers (2-3) just one loss behind the Ravens and Bengals.

Roethlisberger, whose career quarterback rating coming into this season was a gaudy 98.3, found himself coming into Sunday's game against Kansas City behind everyone except for Oakland's Andrew Walter in the efficiency department. In his three starts -- all losses -- Roethlisberger had completed just 53.9 percent of his passes (down from 62.9 his first two seasons) with no touchdown passes, seven interceptions and a QB rating of 41.7. People had taken to calling Big Ben "007," as in no wins and no TD passes for No. 7.

The popular speculation, despite the fact that he was the star of the Steelers' training camp, was that he wasn't completely recovered from his offseason motorcycle accident or the appendectomy that kept him out of the season-opening win over Miami. That Big Ben had come back to soon. In fact -- it's funny -- just minutes before the game I was talking to a scout who said he thought Roethlisberger was overrated anyway and that, like a lot of people, he thought Roethlisberger was just a quarterback who previously merely had to manage a great team. Now that some of those pieces were no longer in place, now that everything wasn't going perfectly, the scout believed Roethlisberger was being exposed.

Everybody's entitled to their opinion. Mine? I say Big Ben's had more than a little to do with what the Steelers have done the past two seasons. But this much is fact: The only thing that got exposed Sunday was the Chiefs' supposedly improved defense.

Kansas City came in ranked fourth overall, fourth against the pass, and having allowed just 52 points in four games. Pittsburgh nearly doubled that total and Roethlisberger picked apart the Chiefs to the tune of 16-for-19 for 238 yards and two touchdowns. He also had three pass plays of 20 or more yards on the day.

Ben Ben's rating: 153.8.

Critics: silenced. For now, at least.

The victory "was big," Roethlisberger said. "We wanted to come out and play good football and prove people wrong. Prove the naysayers wrong. When you play bad, excuse me, it pisses you off. When I'm playing that way I know I'm not on. I think today was a better indication of the way we can play."

What Pittsburgh did was get back to playing Steeler football. Pittsburgh used balance to build an early lead then shut it down and protected it in the second half. The Steelers ran for 154 of its 219 rushing yards in the first half, including a 48-yard gallop by Najeh Davenport. Roethlisberger hit on 13-of-15 in the first half, with a 50-yard catch and run by Santonio Holmes and a 47-yard TD catch and run by Nate Washington. Roethlisberger had a 21.6 fourth-quarter passer rating coming in but didn't improve that figure Sunday because he didn't have to throw a pass in the final quarter and didn't even play the final 12 minutes 40 seconds. That's Bill Cowher's blueprint, which the Steelers weren't able to execute in their losses. Pittsburgh finally played the complete game they'd been talking about during the losing streak.

As for the victorious quarterback, Roethlisberger said the key was, "Being smart. Throwing to the guys in the black jerseys, not the white jerseys." The guys in the white jerseys, the Chiefs, often didn't get close enough to Roethlisberger to disrupt the Steelers' passing game, allowing him plenty of time to find receivers who'd found holes in Kansas City's zone.

"The pocket today was big," Roethlisberger said. "I had lots of time to sit in there. The line did a phenomenal job. Those guys gave me a pocket, and when we do that and the receivers get open, I think we can be pretty dangerous."

The champs aren't in the clear just yet. Sunday they travel to Atlanta, two weeks later Denver comes to town, and then the Saints.

Perhaps each of those teams will face the old Steelers.

"We hope this can be a turning point for us," Roethlisberger said. "We didn't have our heads down. We didn't think this was a do-or-die situation. We knew we had to come out and play good football, and I think we did a good job of that."

Big Ben was asked if he were ready to declare himself back.

"Not yet," he replied. "I won't say that yet."

Don't count the champs out of the AFC North race, not yet. He may not say it, but for now, at least, Big Ben and the Steelers are indeed back.

Michael Smith is a senior writer at ESPN.com
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Old 10-16-2006, 04:00 PM   #2
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Default Re: Micheal Smith on the Steelers

well said!!! at least there is somone out there from ESPN that makes sense!!!

"You play tough, you play smart, and above all ..... you play physical."
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Old 10-16-2006, 04:04 PM   #3
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Default Re: Micheal Smith on the Steelers

Michael Smith hit it on the money
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Old 10-16-2006, 04:05 PM   #4
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Default Re: Micheal Smith on the Steelers

Good read. No matter how the sports media wants to slice it, I believe this statement says it all.....

What Pittsburgh did was get back to playing Steeler football.

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Old 10-16-2006, 04:13 PM   #5
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Default Re: Micheal Smith on the Steelers

Don't count us out just yet!!!
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Old 10-16-2006, 04:55 PM   #6
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Default Re: Micheal Smith on the Steelers

Just remember last year. At 7-5 no-one, and I mean no-one outside Steeler Nation was talking about the Steelers. Fox TV crew, CBS TV crew, even Boomer Berman on ESPN did not even include the Steelers in their playoff mix prognostications.
Everyone was talking Colts, Pats, Bungles, Chargers. Not one word about Pittsburgh.
I think Chris Collinsworth learned his lesson 'cause last night at the Oak-Denv halftime he claimed "the Steelers will make the playoffs, mark my words".
So I say let 'em write us off.
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Old 10-16-2006, 07:10 PM   #7
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Default Re: Micheal Smith on the Steelers

Micheal Smith usually has a lucid perspective on Steeler football. I like his work.
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Old 10-16-2006, 07:16 PM   #8
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Default Re: Micheal Smith on the Steelers

DON'T COUNT US OUT YET! It's still early in the season.

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Old 10-16-2006, 07:23 PM   #9
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Default Re: Micheal Smith on the Steelers

Brings tears to my eyes..........
"We're not going to turn our backs on him," Ward said. "We're going to treat him like our brother. We're going to accept him back and be very supportive of him and help him get through this. In this locker room, he's still our quarterback."
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Old 10-17-2006, 10:29 AM   #10
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Default Re: Micheal Smith on the Steelers

I've always respected Michael Smith. He knows his stuff, and makes intelligent comments and predictions. Some of them I may not agree with but atleast he says intelligent things. Unlike most of the ESPN, FOX, CBS, and NBC Guys. Not to break away from the convo or anything but did anyone else notice how Jerome is staying true to his roots and pretty much publically rooting the Steelers. He even called them the 'Stillers' the other night. Made me proud
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