Thursday, October 30, 2014

Greene embodies the Pittsburgh Steelers


By F. Dale Lolley
http://www.observer-reporter.com/
October 28, 2014

Super Bowl IX 1975
Pittsburgh Steelers' tackle "Mean" Joe Greene (75) gets ready to rush in as Minnesota Vikings' quarterback Fran Tarkenton (10) calls signals during Super Bowl IX, Jan. 12, 1975, in New Orleans. Greene led the Steelers' defense in their 16-6 victory. (AP Photo/Harry Cabluck)

PITTSBURGH – Anyone who watched Steelers Hall of Fame defensive tackle Joe Greene during his 13-year career knows he always played with a lot of emotion.

When the Steelers retire Greene’s No. 75 at halftime of Sunday night’s game against the Baltimore Ravens – making it just the second retired number in team history to go with Ernie Stautner’s No. 70 – Greene admits he’ll get emotional on the football field again.

“There have been moments in the past that have kind of rivaled this, (like) when Mr. Rooney (Dan Rooney) asked me to be his presenter at the Pro Football Hall of Fame,” said Greene. “I have enormous emotions about that. And when I was inducted into the Hall of Fame (in 1987), I had great emotions about that because it was all about my life and the people I worked with and grew up with and I enjoyed victories with and had losses with. This is pretty much the same because it’s about the Steelers and it’s about my playing days with “The Chief” (Art Rooney, Sr.), Dan Rooney and Chuck Noll and his staff for sure for tolerating me.”

Greene was obviously joking about the Steelers “tolerating” him. From the time he was the Steelers top draft pick in 1969 until his retirement in 1981, Greene wasn’t just the face of the Steelers. He was the Steelers.

He would go on to serve as an assistant coach under Noll for five years and later as an advisor to the scouting department before retiring after nine years in that position in 2013.

But his mark was left on the Steelers in many ways that transcend what he did on the field, leading Pittsburgh to four Super Bowl titles, six AFC Championship games.

There were 11 trips to the Pro Bowl and the honors of being named to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary Team. But Greene helped change the culture of the Steelers, who were the NFL’s lovable losers before his selection in 1969.

“One of the things that I remember so much through the years and especially the early years when we were being called the ‘Same old Steelers,’ what I remember was the fans, those loyal 13,000-15,000 people who came to the stadium,” said Greene, who will have nearly 20 family members on hand for Sunday’s game.

“Other fans would fuss at us at times, but they wouldn’t let anyone fuss at us, which I thought was great.”

Because of Greene and the other eight Hall of Fame players on Pittsburgh’s roster during their Super Bowl runs of the 1970s, that changed.

And Greene was the catalyst. He was the player that all of those other great players rallied around, which is why the Steelers felt the need to retire his number. They had not given it, or those worn by Terry Bradshaw, Jack Lambert, Franco Harris and Mike Webster to other players to wear.

“It’s Joe Greene,” said Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin. “We all feel a little better when we see Joe, even though he’s not playing. I know the fans have a level of appreciation for him and what he means to this organization and what he meant to this organization and this city and football in general.”

Greene nearly didn’t get his trademark No. 75 when he came to the Steelers. In training camp his first season, he was given No. 72 because another player, defensive lineman Ken Kortas, was already wearing 75, which Greene had donned in high school and college.

“I wore 72 throughout the preseason and when Ken was released, 75 was in my locker,” Greene said.

It’s still quite prevalent in the stands every time the Steelers take the field. There are always fans in every stadium the Steelers play in wearing a Joe Greene jersey.

It’s a testament to his legacy.

“The Pittsburgh Steelers, when we say that, that has resonance throughout the National Football League in a positive way,” said Greene. “It means champions, and I hope that in the following years that this organization and the teams and the coaches that become a part of the Pittsburgh Steelers can continue the legacy of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Steelers Nation. It means something. It means winning. It means championships. It means doing things the right way. It’s an attitude that we could possess.

“We had a formula and I thought that was good. That was the leadership all the way down from the ownership to the coaches (and) everyone in the locker room. There was something that we called the Steelers way and it’s hard to get and it’s hard to keep. That’s what I would like for people to think about. They would associate me (and) my number with all of the other numbers that the players before them wore. You can’t separate any of us. I believe it’s still a special place. My hope is that it always will be a special place.”

Because of Joe Greene, that will always be possible.


F. Dale Lolley can be reached at dlolley@observer-reporter.com

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Mean Joe just doesn't want to cry at Steelers' number-retirement ceremony

Former Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Fame defensive tackle Joe Greene, right, shakes hands with Dan Rooney, chairman emeritus of the team, before an NFL football game between the Steelers and the Tennessee Titans on Sept. 8 in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
PITTSBURGH — The fierce competitor and the Hall of Famer in Joe Greene would love to run out of the tunnel just one last time. The 68-year-old in him and his knees just aren’t going to allow that to happen, he joked.
Besides, Greene — a man who struck fear into the hearts of opponents with his ferocious play — is more worried about keeping it together emotionally during his speech Sunday night.
Thirty-three years after he played his last game, the Steelers will retire Greene’s No. 75 during halftime of their nationally televised game against the Ravens. For Pittsburgh and for the organization, it’s a chance to properly say — as the kid in his iconic 1979 Coca-Cola commercial once did — “Thanks, Mean Joe.”
Greene joins Ernie Stautner (No. 70) as the only players in franchise history to have his number retired by the Steelers, who, traditionally, have opted not to re-issue select numbers. It’s a distinction not lost on Greene.

CHRIS MUELLER: Martavis Bryant could be Steelers' missing piece


“I’ve probably had several sleepless nights thinking about what a great honor this is and can I be up to the task. I don’t know,” said Greene, whose arrival in 1969 ushered in the start of the Steel Curtain and an unprecedented four Super Bowl championships in six years beginning in 1974. “We’ll just have to see. I know that I’m going to get really emotional, and I’ve always been an emotional guy. I just hope I can finish. I know getting up there and hearing the fans and seeing the fans and seeing familiar faces (that) it’s going to be an emotional time for me.”
Eight of his former teammates are also enshrined in Canton — “you can’t separate any of us,” he said — but Greene is widely considered the best of the group and the leader of arguably the best defense in league history. He was a two-time Defensive Player of the Year and was All-Pro or All-AFC nine times in his 13-year career.
But, when asked about his legacy on the game, Greene deflected praise, citing team success.
“The Pittsburgh Steelers, when we say that, that has resonance throughout the National Football League in a positive way,” said Greene, who will have 19 family members, including his mother, with him. “It means champions, and I hope that in the following years that this organization and the teams and the coaches that become a part of the Pittsburgh Steelers can continue the legacy of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Steelers Nation. It means something. It means winning. It means championships. It means doing things the right way.”
That most of the fans who will pack Heinz Field on Sunday night will be too young to have seen Greene play or that the ceremony isn’t at Three Rivers Stadium is of no significance.
“I didn’t play at Heinz Field, but I don’t know if I can discern the difference being out there from Three Rivers Stadium because it’ll still be Pittsburgh,” Greene said. “I hope I can do the Steelers and the fans and my family and myself well.”

Malkin and Crosby lift Penguins to 8-3 rout


By Dan Scifo
http://sports.yahoo.com/nhl/teams/pit/
October 28, 2014

Malkin and Crosby lift Penguins to 8-3 rout

Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta (3) passes the puck in front of New Jersey Devils' Andy Greene (6) during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the New Jersey Devils in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2014. It was announced by the Penguins that Maatta has a tumor on his thyroid that will be operated on next week. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- A jolt from the league's top-ranked power-play gave the Pittsburgh Penguins all it needed to overcome a slow start against the New Jersey Devils.
Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby fueled a four-goal second-period outburst as the Penguins went on to score seven straight during an 8-3 rout against the Devils on Tuesday.
''Obviously, when you have (Crosby) and (Malkin) on the same team, probably the two best players in the world, they can change a game so quick,'' Patric Hornqvist said.
Trailing 3-1, the Penguins rallied behind Malkin. He extended his point streak to eight games with a power-play goal, his fourth of the year before the Penguins poured it on with the next seven, resulting in a season-high eight goals scored by seven different players.
Crosby scored his sixth and seventh goals, Hornqvist netted his fifth and Pascal Dupuis scored in his third straight game, also on the power play. Steve Downie, Blake Comeau and Craig Adams also had goals for Pittsburgh, which defeated New Jersey for the ninth time in 11 home games.
Pittsburgh's top-ranked power play scored three times, the fifth time in eight games it produced multiple goals.
''We started to get everybody into the game,'' Penguins' coach Mike Johnston said. ''Seven different players scoring, that's contributions throughout the lineup.''
Dainius Zubrus scored his second of the season nine seconds into the game, but the Devils were unable to win for the fifth time in six road games. Jacob Josefson and Tuomo Ruutu also scored for New Jersey.
''We beat ourselves,'' Devils' coach Peter DeBoer said. ''I thought we were in a pretty good place for awhile there and as a group we beat ourselves over the last 35-40 minutes.''
Marc-Andre Fleury defeated the Devils for the fifth straight time, making 16 saves.
Cory Schneider stopped 18 of 23 shots through two periods before Scott Clemmensen relieved him in the third, making 10 saves.
The teams combined for six goals in the second period. New Jersey netted the first two to take a 3-1 lead before Pittsburgh rallied with four in a row.
Josefson scored a short-handed, breakaway goal and Ruutu pounced on a rebound in front, giving the Devils a two-goal lead.
Pittsburgh got the boost it needed from the power play, as the Penguins scored on a two-man advantage when Malkin's slap shot from the left point cut the deficit to a goal.
''The five-on-three is where the trouble really started,'' Schneider said. ''We just couldn't stop the bleeding.''
Hornqvist tied it soon after, ripping a shot past Schneider on the blocker side during a rush down the right-wing boards.
Pittsburgh jumped ahead for good with goals in the final 2:25, started by Adams who took a lead pass from Brandon Sutter out of the penalty box and beat Schneider on a breakaway for the eventual game-winner.
''I tried to slow down a little bit and let my hands catch up to my feet,'' Adams said. ''I tried to pull it and go high glove. I didn't quite get it up there, but it was high enough.''
Crosby gave the Penguins a two-goal lead with 1:12 left in the period, converting a rebound while uncovered along the right post. Dupuis and Downie scored power-play goals in the third and Crosby capped the scoring with his second as Pittsburgh easily pulled away.
''They got it to 3-1, but after that we took over the game,'' Hornqvist said.
The Devils played Tuesday without Mike Cammalleri, who leads the team with five goals. Cammalleri, who signed a five-year, $25 million deal on the first day of free agency, suffered a jaw injury during Friday's shootout loss against Dallas. He played the following night in Ottawa, but did not make the trip to Pittsburgh.
Olli Maatta was in the lineup after the Penguins revealed Monday that the 20-year-old defenseman will undergo surgery next week to remove a tumor from his neck that could be low-grade thyroid cancer. Maatta, cleared to play until the surgery, is expected to return in four weeks. He had an assist in 18:50 of ice time on Tuesday.
Maatta was one of 12 Penguins with points as everybody piled on after Malkin's power-play goal.
''The way we responded when it was 3-1, the goal by (Malkin) on the power play, we started rolling,'' Dupuis said.
NOTES: Pittsburgh killed 18 straight penalties after allowing six power-play goals in its first three games. ... Penguins' D Christian Ehrhoff played in his 700th career game. ... The Penguins continue their second three-game homestand of the season Thursday against Los Angeles. New Jersey returns home against Winnipeg, also on Thursday. The Devils scratched D Adam Larsson, while D Robert Bortuzzo (lower body) missed for the Penguins.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Penguins' defenseman Maatta confident of full recovery


Monday, Oct. 27, 2014, 7:11 p.m.

 
Wearing a gray-and-black, V-neck hoodie and with his blond hair swept to one side, Olli Maatta stepped to the podium Monday looking every bit like a 20-year-old kid.

And that's about where any references to Maatta's youth come to a crashing halt.

What came next — an acknowledgement that he will undergo major surgery, and that he could potentially have cancer — was handled much like how Maatta plays hockey: in a way that belies his age.

“I feel healthy, and I feel fine,” Maatta said inside the media room at Consol Energy Center. “The only thing that's different is that maybe I have cancer. It's tough news, but I don't think it has affected me much.”

Maatta will have surgery early next week to have a tumor removed from his neck, a tumor UPMC doctors believe could be a low-grade thyroid cancer.

Penguins team physician Dharmesh Vyas said Maatta will not require radiation or chemotherapy. He put the likelihood of the tumor being cancerous at 85 percent.

Approximately four weeks is Maatta's timetable, Vyas said, and he'll play in the Penguins' three home games this week before having surgery.

“Watching a young man continue his life and play the way he's played is absolutely amazing,” general manager Jim Rutherford said. “It's amazing that he can still concentrate and continue on.

“I can't say enough about Olli and how he's handled this news.”

The mass, discovered during preseason physicals by Eric Anish, has not impeded Maatta's play.
Not even close.

Maatta arguably has been the Penguins' top defenseman this season, with one goal and four assists in seven games.

In addition to averaging 20 minutes, 12 seconds of ice time, Maatta four games ago was added to the No. 1 penalty kill, three games ago to the No. 2 power play.

“He's a strong athlete mentally,” coach Mike Johnston said. “He's always been an exceptional player. He's very confident, and we're very confident that he's going to be able to rebound from this.”

Captain Sidney Crosby was the only one of Maatta's teammates to know about his condition until a team meeting held at 12:30 p.m. Monday, about 30 minutes before everyone else found out.

Asked whether he has talked with co-owner Mario Lemieux, who was diagnosed with a Nodular Lymphocytic form of Hodgkin's disease Jan. 12, 1993, Maatta said he has kept this mostly to himself.

On Thursday — strange as it sounds — the Penguins are holding their Hockey Fights Cancer Night, which is something every NHL club is participating in. The team will host the Los Angeles Kings.
“It is rather ironic that we're announcing this about Olli this week,” Rutherford said.

Vyas said additional testing was done via ultrasound and biopsy. DNA testing also was performed, though Vyas stressed that the potential type of cancer is not “heritable,” or not of a genetic trait.

Any additional operations, Vyas said, would be done at the end of the season as long as it makes sense medically.

“Importantly for Olli, we don't expect this to affect his health in the long term,” Vyas said. “Secondarily, we expect him to do well from a hockey standpoint.”

Which the Penguins certainly wouldn't mind given how important Maatta, a second-year pro, has been to their defense.

In the interim, Robert Bortuzzo likely will take Maatta's spot. He has been recovering from a lower-body injury suffered during a preseason game Sept. 25 and could be ready as soon as Thursday, Johnston said.

“I've been talking to the doctors and trainers and trying to find out everything I can about the cancer,” Maatta said. “I know I'm going to be fine. I know we have a great medical staff here. They're going to take care of me.”

Note: Johnston said forward Beau Bennett will participate in Tuesday's morning skate, then remain on the ice for additional, individual work. Bennett has been out since late September with a lower-body injury.

Jason Mackey is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jmackey@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Mackey_Trib.


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Monday, October 27, 2014

Not even the Colts know what happened in heavy loss


Gregg Doyel, gregg.doyel@indystar.com
October 27, 2014
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck greets Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger following an NFL football game on Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014, in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh won 51-34. (Don Wright, AP / FR87040 AP)
PITTSBURGH — Don't blame this on Vontae Davis' knee. Or Reggie Wayne's elbow. Or Trent Richardson's hamstring.
Those injuries are real and that excuse is easy, but don't go there. Not if you're a Colts fan trying to rationalize this 51-34 loss to the Steelers on Sunday at Heinz Field.
There is no rationalizing a game where the opposing quarterback nearly sets an NFL record for passing yards, the Ben Roethlisberger pinball machine finally stopping on 522 yards, 32 short of Norm Van Brocklin's record from 1951.
There is no rationalizing no-name receivers (Markus Wheaton and Martavis Bryant, unless it's Markus Bryant and Martavis Wheaton) and a big-name tight end (Heath Miller) running so open, so often, that Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was asked about it afterward — and Tomlin gestured toward the Colts' locker room.
"They're probably better equipped than us to answer that," Tomlin said.
Don't be so sure. The Colts had no clue what happened on Sunday, or why. They were impressive after defeat — more impressive than they were during defeat, I assure you of that — by walking around the locker room with voices lifted and heads held high and fingers pointed only at themselves.
"That's on me," Andrew Luck said several times.
"My fault," said safety Mike Adams.
"I didn't do a very good job of getting this team ready," said coach Chuck Pagano.
Great leadership all around, but zero answers. How did a Steelers offensive line that is ranked by the statistical wizards at Football Outsiders as the NFL's 29th worst in pass protection keep Roethlisberger from being hit on 48 of 49 pass attempts? Nobody knew. Why was Roethlisberger, who routinely hangs onto the ball too long and suffered 20 sacks in the first seven games — second-most in the league — never sacked Sunday? Shrugs.
The best the Colts could come up with was this:
"This is the NFL," said defensive end Cory Redding.
"That's the National Football League," Pagano said.
Now that we've settled that, here's what we're not going to do: Lament the missing Vontae Davis, Reggie Wayne and Trent Richardson.
"No way," said Colts center Jonotthan Harrison. "Nobody in here is doing that."
Missing two of their best skill players didn't stop Luck from throwing for 400 yards or the offense from gaining 448 total yards or scoring 34 points. No Wayne meant more Donte Moncrief, who responded with seven catches for 113 yards and a sensational 31-yard touchdown. No Richardson meant more Ahmad Bradshaw, who broke ankles all over the field — he broke four ankles on one play, sending a rippling murmur through the crowd — and produced 87 combined yards rushing and receiving on 13 touches.
As for Vontae Davis, the star cornerback who left in the first quarter with a knee injury, well, it's like this:
The Colts defense was lit up before he was hurt.
Specifically, Vontae Davis was lit up before Vontae Davis was hurt, including the time he was standing sentry in the back of the end zone while Wheaton ran in front of him for an easy 18-yard touchdown and a 7-3 lead. That came two plays after Wheaton had beaten Davis for nine yards over the middle.
With Davis, without him, the Colts were lit up at nearly never-seen levels. The Steelers' 35 points was the third-most ever surrendered in the first half by the Colts. Roethlisberger set franchise records for completions (40), yards (522) and touchdowns (six). The yardage is the most ever against the Colts.
Davis, one of the better cornerbacks in the league, would have helped with that. You're not stupid, I'm not stupid, we can both surmise that the Colts defense is better with Vontae Davis than without him.
But the absence of Davis doesn't explain 51 points and 639 yards allowed. It doesn't explain the Colts' inability to tackle Le'Veon Bell, who ran 24 times for 92 yards and caught six passes for 56 yards. It doesn't explain Martavis Bryant, who entered the game with two catches for 40 yards on the season, catching five for 83 yards and two touchdowns.
And none of those skill players being out has anything to do with the physical domination of the Steelers up front — on both sides of the ball. The Steelers hit Luck so many times that the media was asking him after the game if he's OK (he said he's fine).
The Colts couldn't get to Roethlisberger, even one of their biggest moments of potential chaos blowing up in their face. Defensive tackle Arthur Jones, in his first action in six games, forced Roethlisberger from the pocket late in the first half and got a hand on Big Ben's foot. Roethlisberger stepped out of that sack attempt, fled the pocket and found Antonio Brown wide open. Simple game of pitch and catch, and Brown ran under the Roethlisberger rainbow and then ran away from Greg Toler for a 47-yard touchdown and a 35-10 lead.
Meanwhile, MVP candidate Andrew Luck threw a baffling pick-six on an out route for Hakeem Nicks that Steelers cornerback William Gay jumped for a 33-yard touchdown and a 21-3 Steelers lead. For Indianapolis, you see, this was a breakdown of epic proportions.
Even so, the Colts made it a game. Down 35-10, they got within 42-34. They had the ball. Luck dropped back to pass.
And fell onto his backside. In the end zone. Where he threw the ball away to avoid being tackled.
Which is a safety.
This was a butt-safety of a game for the Colts. Hate it, but don't excuse it. Don't rationalize it. Be as honest about what happened Sunday as Andrew Luck, who was asked to pinpoint which team the Colts are: The one that had won five games in a row — or the one that lost Sunday 51-34?
"Who you are is your last game," Luck said. "And this is our last game."
Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter: @GreggDoyelStar

Ben’s historic day drives Steelers

PITTSBURGH — The clock had reached the two-minute warning Sunday at Heinz Field, and Ben Roethlisberger was nowhere to be seen.
The quarterback was still standing at the sideline, getting his final instructions, as the Steelers closed out Sunday’s emphatic 51-34 win over Indianapolis.
As Roethlisberger’s statistics were being shown on the giant video board behind the south end zone, what remained of the crowd of 62,479 stood and roared its approval.

MORE STEELERS COVERAGE: Miller has record-setting day too


And down on the 31-yard line, where Roethlisberger’s teammates huddled, yes, there was cheering there too. They were equally impressed, but not nearly surprised.
They know better, they’ve seen Roethlisberger too many times. Maurkice Pouncey sensed something might be different about his quarterback’s day before the game.
“He came in, he was so focused in,” said the center. “I remember him saying, ‘This is prime-time football here, let’s go.’ You could tell by the look in his eyes that this would be huge.”
Actually, huge might be an understatement. Historic would be more accurate.
The only thing more ridiculous than the Steelers’ 1934 retro jerseys were Roethlisberger’s numbers: 522 passing yards, the fourth-most in NFL history, six touchdowns, 40 completions.
How good was Roethlisberger? Consider this: That he became just the fourth fastest quarterback in league history to reach 100 wins in 150 starts – joining the likes of Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana and Tom Brady – almost became an afterthought.
“He’s always been a big-time quarterback,” said second-year receiver Markus Wheaton, who caught the first of the six TDs. “It’s always possible when you have a quarterback like that. Coming into this game, I would have never put it past him.”
Wheaton’s comments are certainly true, but coming into this game all the talk centered on Andrew Luck and Indianapolis. Remember? Luck is the league’s leading passer on the league’s top-ranked offense. Luck is the next Peyton Manning. Luck was favored to win on the road.
Roethlisberger? Even fantasy geeks dissed him. Only 24 percent of fantasy league owners started him in Week 8. Don’t think Roethlisberger didn’t have some extra motivation to beat Luck?

IN PHOTOS: Steelers defeat Colts


“He won’t admit it, but I’m sure,” said coach Mike Tomlin. “You don’t ascend to the position that he is professionally without that competitive fire burning.”
Luck was as good as advertised. The 25-year-old threw for 400 yards and three touchdowns, but Roethlisberger was even better.
Roethlisberger’s arm and his mobility, not to mention those two Super Bowl rings, will probably earn him a bronze bust in Canton one day, but it’s his competitive nature that sets him apart, according to defensive end Brett Keisel.
“I don’t know anyone who is more competitive than Seven,” Keisel said. “And I’ve met a lot of dudes who’ve played in this league, and I’ve never met anyone who’s more competitive and wants to win more than him. It’s great to see him shine today.”
It took eight weeks, but this was easily Roethlisberger’s best performance of the season after an uneven start. Whether he can shine like this again is doubtful, but he remains the Steelers’ best path to victory. On Sunday, with Roethlisberger playing like Roethlisberger is capable, the offense showed it can fulfill its vast potential.
“I think every week, he wants to prove himself,” said tight end Heath Miller, who caught the sixth touchdown. “He deserves a lot more credit than he gets. Maybe after today, he’ll start getting that.”

Roethlisberger's 100th was legendary, maybe more


Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014, 10:36 p.m.

JASON BRIDGE/USA TODAY SPORTS
Ben Roethlisberger has a career day, setting franchise records in passing yards (522) and touchdowns (6).
On Sunday afternoon, Ben Roethlisberger spent an entire game looking like his boyhood idol, John Elway, used to in the two-minute drill. He was masterful and mesmerizing, controlling and clutch, an unstoppable big, bad man in full possession of his quarterbacking powers.

He was legendary, linking his 100th victory to a performance for the ages, one that evoked memories and conjured visions of greatness, glory and all the spoils that come when the franchise quarterback also is an all-time signal caller.

That's what Ben Roethlisberger is: all-time.

That's probably what he'll have to keep being for the Steelers to pull off what they've positioned themselves to do: win the division.

Oh yeah, the AFC North is theirs for the taking — unbelievable given where this team was a week ago.

They were in last place.

The Ravens are coming to Pittsburgh for a showdown Sunday night. After that, two of the Steelers' final seven games are against the Bengals. Everything is on the table for a squad not a lot of people figured was capable of anything more than a third consecutive 8-8 record. At 5-3, and with four of eight remaining games against teams with losing records, suddenly the Steelers are serious playoff contenders. Heck, they might even bring a playoff game to Heinz Field for the first time since 2011.

“I tell the young guys, ‘You all ain't never experienced Pittsburgh in the playoffs,' ” veteran cornerback Ike Taylor said this past week. “The ground shakes. We watch the games on tape, and you can see the ground shake.”

Taylor did not play against Indianapolis. A broken forearm limited him to watching from the sidelines. His healthy defensive teammates were mostly there with him because the Steelers held possession for 39 minutes, 43 seconds.

That is a lifetime in the NFL, and over those nearly 40 minutes, Steelers defenders witnessed a performance of a lifetime by the quarterback who had proven his own worst critic during a disappointing 3-3 start.

A lot will be made, deservingly so, of Roethlisberger's career-best 40 completions against a Colts pass defense that ranked fourth in the NFL. More will be made, again deservingly so, of him becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to pass for more than 500 yards twice. The most might be made — and, really, the praise will be as deserving as it is effusive — of his six touchdown passes.

Well, what if I argued Roethlisberger deserved better than his statistics?

He did.

Three of his nine incompletions were drops by wide receivers. Also, near the end of the first half, and facing a fourth-and-4 from the Colts' 34-yard line, Roethlisberger was tasked with punting instead of getting a chance to connect on a pass that might have extended another potential touchdown drive.

One of the Steelers' minority owners, Thomas Tull of Legendary Pictures (“The Dark Knight” trilogy) fame, greeted Roethlisberger outside the locker room after the game.

“The amazing thing is you left points out there,” Tull said as Roethlisberger widened his eyes and slightly shook his head in apparent agreement.

Every one of Roethlisberger's teammates heaped praise upon this team's best player, but center Maurkice Pouncey called attention to the lack of dirt on his quarterback's uniform.

Roethlisberger was not sacked. More of that, Pouncey said, will mean a lot more of what backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski said was available to the Steelers offense Sunday.

That would be the entire playbook, the one designed by offensive coordinator Todd Haley, who was noticeably beaming in the locker room after the victory.

What happened here on this final Sunday of October was something to cherish, to tell friends about if you were in the stadium, to remember for bar conversations down the road.

Someday, somebody will ask, “Where were you when Big Ben turned his 100th win into a Hall of Fame snapshot?”

What's left for this team to determine is whether someday somebody also asks, “Where were you when Big Ben sparked the Steelers on a path back to prominence?”

Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rrossi@tribweb.com or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.


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