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Old 12-11-2006, 09:25 AM   #1
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Default Steelers best with a bit of Ben

Steelers best with a bit of Ben

By Scott Brown
Monday, December 11, 2006

Ben Roethlisberger's completion rate the last two games is a pedestrian 50 percent. But the Steelers appear to be at their best when Roethlisberger plays like he did in leading them to wins over the Buccaneers and the Browns.

Or, put another way, when he is not throwing the ball all over the place as if he were playing in a backyard football game.

Roethlisberger has thrown a combined 46 passes the last two games - he had 54 pass attempts against Denver last month -- and he was nothing if not efficient in victories that pushed the Steelers' record 6-7.

Roethlisberger's numbers weren't gaudy in either game, but a closer look at them is revealing.

He completed 63 percent of the third-down passes he threw and hit on 6 of 9 such throws in a 27-7 win over the Browns on Thursday.

What made that all the more is impressive is the fact that Roethlisberger didn't have Hines Ward (knee) and Cedrick Wilson (ankle) at his disposal because of injuries.

"A game like (the win over the Browns) gave him even more confidence in himself," Ward said of Roethlisberger. "Without our starting two receivers, a lot of pressure was really put on his shoulders to make the other guys better, and he did that."

Indeed, fill-in starters Nate Washington and Santonio Holmes combined for six receptions for 148 yards and a touchdown.

Roethlisberger also spread the ball around, completing passes to seven receivers for the second consecutive game.

Three of his third-down completions went to reserve tight end Jerame Tuman, Sean Morey, who plays primarily on special teams, and Walter Young, who had never caught an NFL pass going into the game.

Each covered at least 15 yards.

"I thought Ben did a great job," Steelers coach Bill Cowher said.

He played perhaps his best game of the season, considering the absence of Ward and conditions that were hardly conducive to throwing the ball.

The temperature was just above freezing at kickoff with the wind chill factored in, and a spirited wind added to the degree of difficulty to the passing game.

Roethlisberger made one of his prettiest throws of the season into the wind, dropping a pass over the left shoulder of Washington for a 49-yard touchdown.

"It was a heck of a throw," Cowher said.

Roethlisberger, who threw for 225 yards and accounted for two touchdowns against the Browns, will have to make more of those as the Steelers embark on a difficult stretch to end the season.

They play at Carolina Sunday, and that game is followed by matchups against the Ravens at Heinz Field and the Bengals in Cincinnati.

The Steelers have to win each of those games and get a lot of help to make the playoffs.

"We go into the game like we are the underdog and we are trying to get our first win of the season," Roethlisberger said of the approach the Steelers have been taking. "We are playing obviously good teams down this home stretch, but right now our focus is going to be on Carolina."

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