By Mark Madden
November 17, 2013
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) celebrates with wide receiver Antonio Brown (84) after the two connected for a touchdown catch in the first half of a game against the Detroit Lions. (AP)
The man the Steelers want to change…won the game. The man the Steelers want to underpay…won the game.
Ben Roethlisberger won the game. And the Steelers quarterback did it his way, using a liberal dose of no-huddle to assemble a 16-play, 97-yard drive that ate up most of the fourth quarter and gave the Steelers a 30-27 lead they would not lose en route to a 37-27 victory over Detroit at Heinz Field.
Eight of the 16 snaps in that drive were sans huddle. The Lions couldn’t catch their breath, and Roethlisberger showed them no mercy.
Roethlisberger was 7 for 10 on the decisive march, racking up 82 yards in the air and 10 more on the ground via scramble. No one complained about Roethlisberger keeping the play alive too long after that run.
The Steelers couldn’t run the ball. Detroit knew it. It didn’t matter.
Roethlisberger should not change his game one iota. When he negotiates his next contract, Roethlisberger should not accept one penny less than $20 million per year. The Steelers should give Roethlisberger the proper components: A line that can protect him and a receiver that can go deep.
Do that, and let Ben be Ben. Look what he did yesterday with subpar resources. No, he can’t do it all the time. Nobody could.
But Roethlisberger did it yesterday, breathing life into the Steelers’ extremely artificial playoff hopes. Yesterday was about Roethlisberger’s brilliance and Detroit choking. The Lions are not ready for prime time. Fake field goal? What?
Yinzer Nation is happy, no doubt. But a couple wins in a row during a season already lost shouldn’t obscure the Steelers’ problems. They are many, and great.
Ike Taylor is a microcosm.
Taylor is 33, and he’s through. The Steelers won’t realize that, because they usually don’t. But Detroit receiver Calvin Johnson wrote Taylor’s professional obit, embarrassing the Steelers’ so-called cover cornerback so thoroughly in the second quarter that Taylor should enter witness protection.
Megatron is the NFL’s best receiver, maybe one of football’s best receivers ever.
But Taylor -- who has never played in a Pro Bowl and has been overrated non-stop since joining the Steelers in 2003 -- was scarred beyond recognition during a 15-minute span which saw the Steelers allow 27 points, turning a 14-0 first-quarter lead into a 27-20 halftime deficit.
During the second quarter:
l Johnson had five catches for 163 yards, including touchdowns of 79 and 19 yards.
l Taylor committed two penalties, defensive holding (declined) and interference.
l Taylor dropped two interceptions.
Johnson was Taylor’s man. No excuses. Taylor’s job is to cover the opposition’s top receiver and he got folded, spindled and mutilated. It was a horror show.
Nobody expected Taylor to shut down Johnson. But don’t get disgraced. It’s lucky for Ike that Detroit inexplicably stopped looking Johnson’s way in the second half.
For the Steelers, a major housecleaning is in order. And it starts with older players who are fading and have big salary cap numbers.
Taylor’s salary for next season is $7 million. His cap hit is almost $10.5 million. Is Taylor worth that? It’s a hard question the Steelers must ask, and answer.
No questions need to be asked about Roethlisberger. If he’s put in prime position to succeed next year, he will again be one of the NFL’s top five quarterbacks. He was indomitable in yesterday’s fourth quarter. Roethlisberger won the game.
Playing “Renegade” twice didn’t hurt. The jig is up, the news is out…
Mark Madden hosts a radio show 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WXDX-FM (105.9).