Ben Roethlisberger's first season with the Steelers (continued)
Steeler Nation UK was still in Pittsburgh for Ben’s second home game against the Browns and this time we were lucky enough to have field passes that allowed us onto the field before kick-off. The time was wisely spent taking photos and included obtaining Ben’s autograph.
“I guess everyone keeps talking about being surprised,” said coach Cowher talking about his rookie quarterback starting 2-0. “He’s our quarterback. I’m not reflecting on what should be and what shouldn’t be. We need to go out and win football games. We will talk about it when everything is all said and done. He’s our guy and we are going to keep rolling with it, learning from it and growing from it.”
The question regarding Ben Roethlisberger was whether he would become only the sixth rookie quarterback to win his first three starts. For Ben, his concern was reading his opponents’ defenses.
“The more I work in practice, the more reps I get, the more it will eventually help to open up the offense,” Ben observed. “It’s good we’re so well rounded as a team and that we’re such a good team in every aspect right now. I’m just trying to play within the system.”
The Steelers receivers coach Bruce Arians said, “I was with Peyton Manning at this stage and they’re very similar.” As the quarterback coach at Indianapolis, Arians was in a good position to be able to compare the two quarterbacks.
“From Monday to Sunday a lot of information gets imparted, but when the ball is snapped, it can all go out the window,” added Arians. “With Ben, just like with Peyton, it’s all right because they both have great natural instincts.”
Hines Ward said, ”Veteran guys can line up, look at a defense, and pretty much know where the ball is going to go. With Ben, sometimes we’ll look back there and he’s working off a different progression. But that’s just being a rookie. When I was a rookie, I was out here thinking all the time instead of playing. That will come. We just have to be patient. He’s doing fine.”
2004 Week 5: The Pittsburgh Steelers (3-1) vs the Cleveland Browns (2-2)
A lively Steelers began the game in earnest as they attempted to extend their winning ways. Ricardo Colclough returned the opening kickoff 48 yards to secure good field position for the Steelers.
After moving the ball to the Browns’ 25 for a first down, Duce Staley thundered 25 yards behind some great blocking for the touchdown that put the Steelers 7-0 in front.
On the Steelers next series, Ben’s pass bounced off the hands of Randle El and was intercepted by Chris Crocker, who returned it 20 yards for a score that tied the game. Ben showed his maturity by casting aside the turnover to lead his team on a 6-play drive of 70 yards that included a 48-yard pass to Plaxico Burress. Ben finished the series with his 6-yard touchdown run.
After exchanging possessions and field goals, Ben controlled another drive of 71 yards climaxed with his completion to Burress for a 37-yard touchdown to increase Pittsburgh’s advantage. The teams again exchanged field goals before the half for a 27-13 score line.
Dick LeBeau’s defense dominated at the beginning of the third quarter, forcing Cleveland to go three and out. Using Staley and Jerome Bettis on the ground and Hines Ward in the air, Ben took his team on a drive of 63 yards with Bettis taking the ball over on the eighth play with a 3-yard touchdown run.
Cleveland kicked a field goal on their next possession and Jeff Garcia threw a touchdown pass in the final quarter, but the Steelers earned another victory that left them on top of the AFC North.
The Pittsburgh Steelers 34 vs the Cleveland Browns 23
Heinz Field October 10th 2004; 63,609
Ben completed 16 of 21 attempts for 231 yards with 1 TD 1 INT
Reflecting on his big play, Ben gave the credit to his teammates,” Wide receivers are getting open. To me, it is easy. All I have to do is run and throw a football. Those guys are the ones getting open and doing the dirty work.”
Burress offered praise for his provider, “Ben just gives us opportunities to make big plays.” He also recognised at an early stage what would become Ben’s trademark, “Normal plays are four to five seconds long. But with Ben back there, he can break a few tackles and scramble and make plays for us. He just gives us opportunities to make plays on the football.”
A relieved Randle El said afterwards, “Ben’s strength is his ability to let the bad stuff go.”
Ron Cook wrote in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
“In each of his three NFL starts, Ben Roethlisberger has faced a critical moment. At Miami, it was an interception on his first pass. Against Cincinnati, it was a 17-14 fourth quarter deficit.
Against Cleveland, it was an early interception off the normally reliable hands of Antwaan Randle El that was returned for a touchdown by Browns cornerback Chris Crocker.
On each occasion, Roethlisberger refused to flinch. He didn’t get gun shy at Miami and put up enough points in the slop for a 1303 win.
He led the decisive touchdown drive in the 28-17 win against Cincinnati.
And he responded to that interception in the Browns game with a spectacular sequence of plays that carried the Steelers a long way toward their 34-23 win.”
Ben signing the reverse of my ticket.