AFC ROOKIE OF THE WEEK
Following his performance in Miami, Ben Roethlisberger won the AFC rookie of the week award. Ben also earned praise from Terry Bradshaw. “He’s pretty impressive,” Bradshaw enthused on Sporting News Radio. “A lot of poise. Big kid, big arm. I’m very impressed.”
The Steelers produced outstanding red zone efficiency with scoring touchdowns on six of their eight opportunities. Hines Ward led the AFC with 356 receiving yards and was tied for the lead with 22 receptions. Ward’s effort were recognised when named AFC offensive player of the month for September.
The next game for the Steelers sees defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau going up against the team he led as head coach for two and a half seasons – the Cincinnati Bengals. “It’s an important game for us, a division game, “ said LeBeau. “We’re already lost one division game and that makes this doubly important.”
The Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1) vs the Cincinnati Bengals (1-2)
With Ben Roethlisberger making his home debut, Steeler Nation UK was lucky to be in Pittsburgh for their annual visit to see the game.
In the game that saw two quarterbacks selected in the first round of consecutive drafts go head to head, it was the rookie Roethlisberger who showed the poise. His more experienced opposite number, Carson Palmer, fluffed his lines.
The Steelers fell behind early, but a 35-yard kickoff return from Antwaan Randle El put the Steelers in a good field position that Roethlisberger took advantage of. Five plays later, highlighted by a 30-yard pass to Burress, the Steelers had tied the game 7-7.
In the second quarter, the Steelers edged ahead with Roethlisberger’s touchdown pass of 11 yards to Verron Haynes, finishing an 11-play drive of 80 yards. The Bengals kicked a field goal to reduce the Steelers half-time lead to 14-10.
After the Bengals took the lead midway in the third quarter, the Steelers gained only one first down in their next two possessions. As the game entered the final period, it would have been easy for a rookie quarterback to buckle under the pressure.
Undeterred and showing experience beyond his youth, Ben directed an 89-yard drive around Duce Staley. Complemented by short passes to Hines Ward and Jay Riemersma, the series finished with an one-yard touchdown run from Jerome Bettis that gave the Steelers a 21-17 lead.
After the teams exchanged possessions, Cincinnati began a drive on their own twenty with 2:19 remaining in the game. Former college roommates Palmer and Troy Polamalu faced each other. As Palmer stepped up to pass, Polamalu faked a blitz and dropped into the right flat to guard against a quick out pattern by the Bengals receiver.
Polamalu plucked the pass out of the air and ran it back for his first career touchdown to seal a Steelers victory.
The Pittsburgh Steelers 28 vs the Cincinnati Bengals 17
October 3rd Heinz Field; 62,402
Roethlisberger completed 17 of 25 attempts for 174 yards 1TD 0 INT
“He just keeps getting better week in and week out,” said Plaxico Burress reflecting on the Roethlisberger, who provided him with his best stats of the season. Burress, who had four catches for 69 yards, added, “That’s definitely what you want to see from a rookie quarterback.”
Hines Ward was more realistic with his view of Roethlisberger. “He’s still a rookie. He still makes some mistakes out there. We have to work with him and be patient. At the same time, we have to go out and make plays for him.”
Ben finished with 17 of 25 for 174 yards with a touchdown with no interceptions for a passer rating of 101. “I did a lot better making a few plays when we needed it,” he said. “There are still a lot of things that I need to clean up. I have not mastered this offense by any means.”
Week 5 - Cleveland>>>