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Ben Roethlisberger happy to silence talkative Jags


JACKSONVILLE — Ben Roethlisberger heard Jacksonville Jaguars defenders critique his game in the offseason and taunt it on the field Sunday.

But after a brilliant fourth-quarter comeback to overcome an awful first three quarters, Roethlisberger relished in a 20-16 win that quieted Jacksonville’s chirp.

“They are a really good defense. They like to talk a lot — before the game, during the game,” said Roethlisberger, whose diving 1-yard touchdown with five seconds to go sealed the game. “But I’m carrying the game ball home.”

Roethlisberger orchestrated late touchdown drives of 80 and 68 yards, including an 11-yard touchdown pass to Vance McDonald with 2:38 left.

But he’s struggled mightily with turnovers against Jacksonville, which intercepted him three times Sunday and has turned over the quarterback 10 times in three meetings dating back to last year.

In August, cornerback Jalen Ramsey — owner of two interceptions Sunday — called Roethlisberger “decent at best” in a GQ interview, noting he “ain’t all that” because Antonio Brown makes the offense go.

Before the offense got hot Sunday, Roethlisberger got a mouthful from linebacker Telvin Smith.

“They have a linebacker, No. 50 — we’ll just use numbers, we won’t have to say names — that wanted to let me know every time I threw an interception,” Roethlisberger said. “He found me, and told me how many interceptions I threw. It was a little motivation to come back and win the game. “

Roethlisberger was 11-of-24 for 66 yards through the game’s first 44 minutes but finished with 314 yards as the Steelers offense went no-huddle attack.

A 25-yard pass to Brown over the middle got the Steelers to the 2-yard line in the final minute. From there, Roethlisberger spiked the ball to stop the clock. The Jaguars committed a facemask penalty in coverage on a passing play. Roethlisberger threw an incompletion. Finally, with 8 seconds left, Roethlisberger rolled to his right on a shovel play and stretched for the goal line when his passing options were covered. The nose of the football barely crossed the goal line.

“Legendary play,” guard Ramon Foster said.

Roethlisberger said he didn’t get a chance to talk with Ramsey after the game, but he completed 5-of-6 passes in the fourth quarter when Ramsey was the nearest defender.

“It’s pretty special,” said guard David DeCastro about playing with Roethlisberger. “I’m lucky to be able to catch him at this part of his career and be able to block for him.”



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Ben Roethlisberger texted Le’Veon Bell prior to deadline to return to Pittsburgh Steelers


PITTSBURGH — Ben Roethlisberger left the window open for Le’Veon Bell, just in case.

The Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback said he texted Bell before Tuesday’s 4 p.m. reporting deadline but didn’t hear back. By not showing up, Bell forfeited the 2018 season — and $14.5 million in earnings on the franchise tag — in an effort to preserve his body for unrestricted free agency.

“I texted him, saying I hoped he was going to show up and if he decided not to, I wished him nothing but the best,” Roethlisberger said Wednesday morning from his locker. “He was a great teammate and football player.”

Roethlisberger isn’t judging Bell for his decision to leave behind his salary and a potential Super Bowl run by the Steelers (6-2-1).

“To each their own on what they want to walk away from,” Roethlisberger said.

That’s where the insight on Bell stopped, as Roethlisberger made it clear that he wanted to move on.

Bell and Roethlisberger shared a backfield for five seasons, with Bell averaging 128.9 yards from scrimmage per game since 2013. Bell, Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown formed the “Killer B’s,” one of the NFL’s most formidable trios.

Bell’s nameplate is still on his locker, but he won’t be coming back.

“The thing about it is he’s not here, he’s not going to be here, so we don’t have to talk about it,” Roethlisberger said.

Roethlisberger said his sole focus is Sunday’s game against Jacksonville, which is arguably the biggest challenge of the year for the Steelers’ offense. The Jaguars intercepted Roethlisberger five times during a Week 5 game last season.

Roethlisberger enjoys the preparation process, which is why sitting out a season would “be tough,” he acknowledged.

“Part of the great thing about this sport is this band of brothers and this group of guys and being with them,” Roethlisberger said. “That’s what keeps me coming back.”



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Ben Roethlisberger has Pittsburgh Steelers playing like team possessed – Pittsburgh Steelers Blog


PITTSBURGH — The liveliest party of the year just took place in Heinz Field, where they danced so hard in the end zone that they ran out of touchdown celebrations, and that’s when they weren’t throwing Cam Newton to the turf.

The Pittsburgh Steelers weren’t lying when they said they were just getting started.

The 52-21 pounding of the Panthers on Thursday tied for the most points allowed in Carolina history and showed that the Steelers look ready to make their own history. Carolina last gave up 52 points on Christmas Eve in 2000 against the Oakland Raiders.

If Ben Roethlisberger can continue to deliver masterpieces like this against a good defense, the Steelers — winners of five straight — might have their best chance at a Super Bowl since the early Mike Tomlin years.

Roethlisberger finished 22-of-25 passing for 328 yards, five touchdowns and a perfect passer rating of 158.3, the third such game of his career. He hit every throw, as if tossing into a big net. The Steelers worked the no-huddle offense, Roethlisberger’s specialty, on a short week, and the usually stout Panthers looked uneasy throughout.

Turns out this offense hadn’t unlocked everything it had this season. The Steelers had connected on three deep balls all season but hit two Thursday, a 75-yard touchdown to JuJu Smith-Schuster and a 53-yard score for Antonio Brown, who made rookie corner Donte Jackson look silly in press coverage.

After the Panthers marched 75 yards for the opening score, the Steelers flipped the game in 13 seconds with the Smith-Schuster touchdown on their first play from scrimmage and Vince Williams‘ interception for a touchdown off an ill-advised Newton throw out of the end zone. The Smith-Schuster score was the franchise’s longest-ever first play from scrimmage.

When Roethlisberger left the game with 14 minutes, 55 seconds in the fourth quarter, the Steelers had scored points on all seven of their drives that didn’t end in a clock run-out at halftime.

On defense, the Steelers (6-2-1) sacked Newton five times and knocked down him many others. A Christian McCaffrey running game that confused the Steelers on the first drive was quickly put in park.

This was such a thorough whooping that Eric Reid‘s helmet shot on Roethlisberger with 1:15 left in the third quarter — which prompted Reid’s ejection — was an attempt to revive a fight that was dead two hours earlier.

At times, the Steelers can turn unstoppable with a fast offense thriving with James Conner as the lead back — which will only complicate matters upon Le’Veon Bell’s potential return by the Tuesday deadline to play this season.

Either way, Pittsburgh is good. Rookie running back Jaylen Samuels scored. Tight ends Vance McDonald and Jesse James both scored. Even offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner was feeling himself, opening the playbook for fullback screens in the second quarter.

Brown and Conner, who each scored Thursday, are the first pair of teammates with 10-plus touchdowns each in their team’s first nine games since Abner Haynes and Chris Burford with the 1962 Chiefs.

Roethlisberger, Brown & Co. have shown the ability to hit the throttle in previous seasons. Performances like this aren’t necessarily unique for this group, especially in prime-time games.

But the efficiency at every level is hard to ignore right now.

And they get Jacksonville, a past playoff hindrance, next Sunday.

Based on this warm-up act, they look ready for anything.



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Eric Reid ejected for hit on Ben Roethlisberger


PITTSBURGH — Carolina Panthers free safety Eric Reid was ejected in the third quarter of Thursday night’s game for a hit on the Pittsburgh SteelersBen Roethlisberger as the quarterback was sliding at the end of a 17-yard scramble.

Reid lowered his head with Roethlisberger already well into his slide and then delivered shoulder-to-helmet contact to the six-time Pro Bowl selection.

Reid was ejected for unnecessary roughness for “forcible contact to the head and neck area of a sliding quarterback.”

The play came with 1:03 left in the third quarter and the Steelers driving for a touchdown that would make it 45-14.

The Panthers in late September became the first team to take a chance on Reid, who filed a collusion grievance against the NFL when no team would sign him after he spent last season with the San Francisco 49ers. Reid said the league colluded to keep him off a roster after he spent the previous season kneeling during the national anthem to protest social injustice.

He has continued to kneel during the anthem at Carolina and has not dropped the grievance.

New Panthers owner David Tepper, who had not addressed the decision to sign Reid until prior to Thursday’s game, was asked whether he had to give approval first.

“What did I say when I first came here?” Tepper said. “I said the first thing I want to do is? … Win. What was the second thing I said I wanted to do? That was also win. What was the third thing I wanted to do? Enough said.”



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Roethlisberger honors shooting victims with ‘Stronger than hate’ cleat – Pittsburgh Steelers Blog


BALTIMORE — Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger wore specialized cleats paying tribute to the Tree of Life synagogue shooting victims during pregame warmups Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.

Roethlisberger wore the cleats — which feature the words “Stronger Than Hate” and the Star of David inside the Steelers’ logo — while hugging each teammate during team stretching, his ritual for every game.

On Tuesday, Steelers players and staff members attended the joint funeral of brothers Cecil and David Rosenthal, who were among the 11 killed during the Oct. 27 shooting.

Michele Rosenthal, the sister of the two victims, used to be the Steelers’ community relations manager. Roethlisberger was among several players to mention Rosenthal by name after the Steelers’ 33-18 win over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.

Coach Mike Tomlin lives in the neighborhood of Squirrel Hill, where the shooting took place.

“It was tough, it was crazy tough, especially with Michele and the closeness we have with her,” Roethlisberger said last Sunday. “We’re thankful for the victory, but we all understand, there are bigger things, there’s life.”

After Friday’s practice, Roethlisberger’s equipment bag was packed with two pairs of cleats — one for the pregame tribute, one black-and-gold pair for game action.

Players typically wear tribute cleats for pregame warmups only, or else they face a fine for an NFL uniform violation.





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Ben Roethlisberger of Pittsburgh Steelers fractured finger, expected to play


PITTSBURGH – Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has a fractured left index finger, coach Mike Tomlin said Thursday.

Roethlisberger suffered the injury in Sunday’s 33-18 win over the Cleveland Browns. The quarterback finished the game with 257 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

Tomlin said the injury could affect Roethlisberger’s practice availability this week but won’t affect his status for Sunday’s matchup with the Baltimore Ravens.

Roethlisberger typically rests on Wednesdays and practices in full Thursdays and Fridays.

Roethlisberger has suffered injuries to his throwing elbow and his off hand-finger in 2018 but hasn’t missed a snap.



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Ben Roethlisberger says running back James Conner deserves playing time when Le’Veon Bell returns


PITTSBURGH — James Conner has earned a prominent role in the Steelers offense with or without Le’Veon Bell, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said Wednesday.

Bell hasn’t signed his $14.5 million franchise tag while preserving his health for a long-term contract in Pittsburgh or elsewhere, but he’s planning a return for the Week 8 matchup against the Cleveland Browns. Conner has produced as the starting running back, rushing for 342 yards and five touchdowns on 84 carries and adding 22 catches for 239 yards.

“I think James has done some amazing things and deserves to be on the field,” Roethlisberger told the media from his locker Wednesday, ahead of Sunday’s matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals. “We also know what Le’Veon is and what he brings to the table. I guess we’ll cross that bridge if and when it happens.”

Bell, an All-Pro in 2017, has averaged nearly 129 total yards per game since entering the league in 2013. He wants to sign with Pittsburgh but rocky franchise-tag negotiations have complicated matters. The Steelers most recently offered a five-year, $70 million deal that Bell rejected because of low guarantees ($17 million).

Bell does a little bit of everything for the offense, and in his absence, the Steelers have asked much of Conner, too. He struggled with pass protection, injuries and conditioning as a rookie but has progressed steadily in his second year. Conner has two fumbles, however, and the rushing attack stalled from Weeks 2-4, averaging 2.8 yards per carry.

But Roethlisberger said the numbers don’t tell the entire story about Conner’s well-rounded game.

“If you look at the overall picture of what we’ve asked him to do every week, I think it’s been going up every week,” Roethlisberger said. “I think that’s what gets lost in what a running back [does] and what he’s been doing — pass blocking, picking up the blitz, catching out of the backfield. I don’t want to jinx anything, but he’s catching almost everything I’m throwing to him, and he’s in the right spot all the time quickly.”

Left tackle Alejandro Villanueva said a Bell-Conner combo can be “very effective” because of Bell’s patient running style coupled with Conner’s explosion through the hole. Pittsburgh’s offense typically relies on one workhorse back, but Roethlisberger said both players can help spell each other to stay fresh for a long season.

The Steelers (2-2-1) have a Week 7 bye but need a win over the 4-1 Bengals to tighten the AFC North race. Steelers-Bengals games have featured a litany of injuries and fines for questionable hits. Roethlisberger hopes for a cleaner game, noting NFL rules preventing ill-intended hits haven’t curbed issues in the past.

“It’s not about just the physicality of the football game, to me,” Roethlisberger said. “It’s when it gets the extracurricular, the dirty stuff that you wish was cut out of it, and hope is cut out this time.”



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Connection with Ben Roethlisberger is like spotty WiFi


PITTSBURGH — When it comes to his connection with Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown doesn’t plan to reboot the router.

“It’s like Wi-Fi, you know,” said the All-Pro Steelers receiver entering Sunday’s matchup with the Atlanta Falcons in Heinz Field. “Sometimes the connection is poor. Sometimes the connection is great. But it’s always connected.”

Brown has 29 catches through four games, but his average of 9.4 yards per catch is four less than his career average. Brown recorded eight 100-yard games in 14 games last season but has zero so far this year.

Second-year receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster leads the Steelers in receptions (31) and yards (416) on 38 targets, four less than Brown. Smith-Schuster said he’s benefiting from consistent double teams dedicated to Brown.

The Steelers failed to convert 10 of 12 third downs in Sunday’s 26-14 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, with Roethlisberger targeting Brown on many of those attempts.

On the sideline between those plays, Brown and Roethlisberger did not have much dialogue on the sideline. Instead, Brown was seen going through plays with backup Josh Dobbs.

Brown said the communication with his quarterback is just fine, and sometimes directed at the media.

“Me and Ben laugh about you guys, creating drama, writing about us,” Brown said. “Trying to create adversity and distractions. We actually text about it, laughing, communicate a lot on text message about you guys.”

Brown added the Steelers offense must “find a way to move the chains,” and he’s confident that signature explosion between him and his quarterback will come. Since 2015, Brown and Roethlisberger have combined for six games of 180 yards.

“We will make our plays,” Brown said. “We just got to find a way to get this thing rolling.”

Roethlisberger took the blame for the Week 4 struggles, stressing if he does his part, Brown will “get his numbers, which will in turn get us wins.”

Roethlisberger has 1,414 passing yards for eight touchdowns, five interceptions and a 64.0 completion percentage on the year.

Sunday features the very best in receiver play between Browns Falcons receiver Julio Jones, who’s pacing for a 2,000-yard season.

Brown said there’s nothing Jones can’t do on a field, but he’s not into comparisons.

“I’m just trying to win,” Brown said. “You guys can compare me to him a couple of years from now.”



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Ben Roethlisberger takes blame in Pittsburgh Steelers loss


PITTSBURGH — Ben Roethlisberger was blunt about his struggles in Sunday night’s 26-14 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

“I’m not on the same page with anybody right now,” the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback said when asked whether he’s on the same page with star receiver Antonio Brown.

Roethlisberger finished with 274 yards on 27-of-47 passing with one touchdown and an interception, but 50 of those yards came in the second half as the Ravens pulled away.

The Steelers (1-2-1) were 2-of-12 on third downs. Roethlisberger targeted Brown (5 catches, 62 yards, 1 TD) on four of those attempts in the second half, but the duo couldn’t connect. The low moment came with 2:22 left in the fourth quarter, when Roethlisberger, throwing off his back foot, tossed into double coverage for an interception.

“I’m not playing well enough,” he said. “I need to play better. Today was just a bad day at the office. I promise I’ll be back to play better.”

Roethlisberger’s 1,140 yards through Pittsburgh’s first three games were the most of his career to start a season. But with a struggling running game without Le’Veon Bell, Roethlisberger’s arm must carry the offense. Fourth receiver Ryan Switzer had a team-high seven catches vs. Baltimore.

Brown was brief with reporters on his way out of the locker room, noting the Steelers must find a way to stay on the field. The offense held the ball for 2 minutes, 40 seconds in the fourth quarter.

“We gotta make it happen,” Brown said.

Roethlisberger pointed the blame directly at himself for that, repeating at least four times that he had to be better.

“I let the guys down,” he said.



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When Ben Roethlisberger leaves, party begins in Steelers locker room – Pittsburgh Steelers Blog


PITTSBURGH — The locker room was fairly calm when Ben Roethlisberger walked out of it Friday afternoon.

A few minutes later, Drake blared from Cam Heyward’s corner. Defensive backs in the area broke out various Fortnite dances before Heyward switched up the pace with “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell.

That the needle dropped when the quarterback departed was no coincidence.

“You’ve got to respect what he wants,” Darrius Heyward-Bey said. “He’s not here, it’s party time.”

There’s an unwritten rule in the Steelers locker room that Roethlisberger works to protect — no blaring loud music during core business hours.

Players cultivate a casual, laugh-heavy atmosphere each day, but from 8 a.m. until post-practice showers between 3 and 4 p.m., musical silence is black and golden.

Roethlisberger says the Steelers’ setup has been this way since he arrived in 2004 and veterans such as Alan Faneca and Brett Keisel kept the speakers off.

Now, at 36, Roethlisberger is upholding the tradition, though he’s not trying to be the get-off-my-lawn dad.

“That’s one of the reasons they invented headphones, so you can listen to your music,” said Roethlisberger with a laugh. “If you want to listen to music, that’s no problem, we just don’t want to have to hear it at other people’s lockers. It’s just kind of always been that tradition and we try to keep it going.”

Roethlisberger occasionally enforces the rule with teammates, either in person or via his long-distance connection.

“Usually I’ll send AB [Antonio Brown] a text on the other side of the locker room,” Roethlisberger said. “I’ll be like, ‘AB, music.’ He’ll look down and say, my bad. It’s pretty funny. We have fun with it. He’ll say like, it’s Vinny [Williams] or somebody else. It’s usually done in fun. It’s not really serious. But I try to keep that tradition alive.”

Players don’t need Roethlisberger to formally address the team about the music, Heyward-Bey said. The rules are understood, and players get a feeling about how things should be.

Games are permissible. Many players play garbage-can hoops after practice while media conduct interviews. And players get music during weightlifting sessions.

“We don’t need a club in here 24-7,” Heyward-Bey said. “It’s like that on other teams. [Roethlisberger] is a big part of the fact that, ‘Hey, guys, from 8 to 3, let’s focus in.’ Have some fun and laugh, but we don’t need to be a club here. I feel him on that.”

Many NFL teams play music in the locker room and during practice, but speakers are only on the Steelers’ fields for crowd-noise simulation.

Roethlisberger appreciates the no-music approach because each player prepares for practices and games differently.

“I always tell [teammates], too — when I retire, you guys can change the rules, do whatever you want,” Roethlisberger said. “But I hope that I can pass down some of the same things that were passed down to me. I think that on gameday and even at practice, everyone wants to get prepared differently. How am I supposed to get prepared if this guy is listening to rap and this guy is listening to country and this guy is listening to hard rock? It’s hard to focus. So it’s just a matter of respecting everyone’s area and their process.”

Friday is a common day for locker-room music, depending on the mood. Heyward, a co-captain with Roethlisberger and occasional DJ, said the team keeps decorum not just for the quarterback, but for those covering the team.

“We try to be respectful sometimes to the media, let you guys get your questions in,” Heyward said. “When everyone leaves, that’s when we can throw a party.”



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