Saturday, September 13, 2014

Big Ben's struggles emblematic of loss

Friday, Sept. 12, 2014, 9:45 p.m.


Every game he played last season. Every game he played in 2012.

Over the last two-plus seasons, Ben Roethlisberger is the one consistent on a Steelers team that is 17-17 during that time.

But when Roethlisberger isn't playing up to the standards of the $100 million quarterback he is right now — and the $100 million quarterback he expects to be again next year — the Steelers are too unreliable to make up for it.

Roethlisberger experienced only his second below-average passer grade in three seasons during the Steelers' 26-6 loss at the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday night.

His performance wasn't bad, it wasn't nearly good enough on a night the Steelers didn't generate a touchdown, sack or takeaway.

It wasn't just the multiple underthrows of receivers, the overthrow of Heath Miller as he ran open on a play that might have altered the game, the interception by nose tackle Haloti Ngata, It also was a surprising inability to complete short throws — Roethlisberger was only 8 of 16 for 69 yards on passes within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage.

Roethlisberger had thrown at least one touchdown pass in all 30 games he had played since a 13-9 win over Cleveland to end the 2011 regular season. But he didn't Thursday, and with predictable results.
“We obviously weren't good enough,” Miller said Friday. And, this time, even the quarterback had to be included.

“It was one bad thing here, one bad thing there. … First down, we just kept getting behind the chains, and we can't do that,” Roethlisberger said.

The offense never seemed to recover from wide receiver Justin Brown's fumble that ended a game-opening drive from the 20 to the Ravens 22. On the same drive, Courtney Upshaw slammed Roethlisberger helmet-first in the chest, a hard hit that drew a penalty but perhaps disrupted the quarterback.

After that, Roethlisberger was barely above 50 percent, 20 of 35 with an interception, on throws in which he was not blitzed, according to Pro Football Focus. He averaged 5.9 yards per throw compared to 10.7 yards against the Browns.

“I don't think (the offense) was horrible,” Roethlisberger said.

However, the offense has been just that since the midpoint of the second quarter against Cleveland on Sunday. The Steelers have gone 612 quarters without a touchdown while being outscored 50-9 — 40-3 in the second half.

Those are Jaguars- or Raiders-like statistics, not Steelers-like statistics.

But this is: For the second successive season, the Steelers haven't generated a takeaway in their first two games. Last season, the streak didn't end until their fifth game.

“When you go on the road, you've got to get turnovers and get off the field if you want to go into another team's (stadium) and come out with a ‘W,' ” linebacker Lawrence Timmons said.

The Steelers also had three turnovers, which led Miller — who had a fumble — to say, “We shouldn't be surprised about the outcome. In general, we didn't do enough throughout the whole game.”

The defense didn't, either, on a night it gave up six scoring drives: two for touchdowns and four for field goals. The communication problems in getting the right play call from the sideline to the field, and from player to player, that occurred during Cleveland's 24-point second half persisted.

“It's tough,” cornerback Ike Taylor said. “It's a different mix (of players). When you had the old mix … you didn't have to tell me the call. I could look at your body language. We had guys who were playing five and six years together.”

But while their roster is getting younger, the Steelers have played like this for more than two seasons — not getting takeaways, not getting sacks, not converting on key drives, not playing their accustomed level of defense.

And it's starting to get old for a lot of them.

Staff writer John Harris contributed to this report. Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.

Read more: 
Follow us: @triblive on Twitter | triblive on Facebook

No comments: