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Old 01-16-2011, 08:05 PM   #1
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Default In crunch time, Steelers rely on Ben Roethlisberger to deliver

In crunch time, Steelers rely on Ben Roethlisberger to deliver
By Gary Mihoces, USA TODAY
PITTSBURGH The Pittsburgh Steelers, in the AFC title game for the fourth time in seven seasons, like to spread credit for that throughout the franchise. But when the clock is ticking and they need one big drive, it is Ben Roethlisberger time.

The seventh-year quarterback has been part of all those runs.

"When I see him in that huddle, I know I've always got a chance to win a ball game," says wide receiver Hines Ward.

VIDEO: Highlights from Steelers' win against Ravens

Roethlisberger began this season under a four-game suspension for violation of the NFL's personal conduct policy in connection with a sexual assault complaint filed against him in Georgia. Pittsburgh went 3-1 without him but lost in week four here with Charlie Batch at quarterback against the AFC North-rival Baltimore Ravens.

Roethlisberger was back Dec. 5 in Baltimore. Playing with a broken nose, he threw for a late touchdown in Pittsburgh's 13-10 win. That victory ultimately gave the Steelers the division title and home field in Saturday's divisional playoff here against the Ravens.

Saturday, with the season on the line, the Steelers faced third and 19 at their own 38-yard line with just over two minutes left and a game tied 24-24.

Roethlisberger threw deep down the right side to rookie wide receiver Antonio Brown, who pinned the ball against the top of his shoulder pad and helmet for a 58-yard gain to the Baltimore four that set up the winning touchdown run in Pittsburgh's 31-24 victory.

"I have confidence in our guys. It's not just me by any means. All I have to do is throw it," said Roethlisberger, who will face the New England Patriots or New York Jets for the AFC title.

Brown's catch was reminiscent of David Tyree's helmet catch that helped the New York Giants upset the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl XLII after the 2007 season.

But Brown, a sixth-round draft pick from Central Michigan, saluted Roethlisberger: "The ball just landed on my shoulder, man. Ben made a great throw and just stuck it on me."

Pittsburgh's defense played a big role in a comeback from a 21-7 halftime deficit. Baltimore got that lead with the help of defensive end Cory Redding's 13-yard touchdown return of a Roethlisberger fumble, which most everybody on the field except Redding assumed was an incomplete pass.

In the second half, the Steelers allowed 28 net yards, forced three third-quarter turnovers that led to 17 points and sacked quarterback Ravens Joe Flacco four times.

But summing up the winning drive, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin started with Roethlisberger.

"It's Ben. You give this guy an opportunity to snap it, he is capable of producing plays," said Tomlin. " He has a no-blink mentality."

Before his big pass, Roethlisberger said initial discussion with offensive coordinator Bruce Arians was to try something shorter. "All the receivers were all supposed to do 15-yard stop routes," said Roethlisberger.

He told Arians, "Let's just chuck it deep. If they (intercept), it will be a pick way down there, just as good as a punt."

In Super Bowl XLIII, following the 2008 season, Roethlisberger's six-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Santonio Holmes with 35 seconds left gave Pittsburgh a 27-23 win over the Arizona Cardinals. Saturday, his target was Antonio. Santonio is now a Jet.

Roethlisberger has won his last seven starts against Baltimore. The Steelers were 0-3 against Baltimore in that span without him. Beyond the suspension, he missed a game with Baltimore last season due to a concussion and sat out the regular season final in 2007.

Roethlisberger on that 7-0 run: "Luck." Teammates disagree.

"He's a special quarterback," says tight end Heath Miller. " He's never mentioned among the top quarterbacks for some reason, but I don't know why that's the case. He gets the job done."
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