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NKySteeler
01-29-2009, 09:33 PM
Relaxed Big Ben out to avenge dismal Super Bowl XL output
By Jarrett Bell, USA TODAY

http://img140.imageshack.us/img140/866/roethlisbergerxel0.jpg
"He's on a mission," Hines Ward says of Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger, left, who had a record-low 22.6 passer rating in Super Bowl XL. "He wants to redeem himself."

TAMPA Welcome back to the Super Bowl, Ben Roethlisberger.

Some things never change. Like the TV reporter in the front row, who usually fires questions on the red carpet rather than from the sidelines of a football field.

What actor would you want to play you in a movie?

"I don't know his name," Roethlisberger answers. "But he played King Leonidas in 300."

Gerard Butler, get to work on your tight spiral.

If you could steal any Hollywood actress, who would it be?

"Steal?" Roethlisberger replies. "That's kidnapping. You'll get arrested for that."

Insert laugh track here.

Roethlisberger, aka Big Ben, is having a blast. He's loose and relaxed, so much that he is toting a videocam this week to record special moments. This is quite the contrast to the last time the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback was in a Super Bowl, three years ago, when Jerome Bettis basked with a grand send-off into retirement with a victory in his hometown. A nervous Roethlisberger played as tight as he felt then.

Super Bowl XL was marked by Hines Ward's MVP performance, Willie Parker's Super Bowl-record 75-yard TD burst and Antwaan Randle El's option pass TD to Ward.

And Roethlisberger's 22.6 passer rating worst-ever for a winning quarterback.

"He's on a mission," says Ward. "He wants to redeem himself."

Part of the task, Roethlisberger believes, includes maintaining a mental toughness that can handle the pre-game buzz without a hitch. This has been learned from experience.

"Even sitting here last time, I was kind of overwhelmed," Roethlisberger, 26, said during his media day conference on Tuesday. "This time, I'm just sitting back enjoying myself. Enjoying the sun."

Yet this week might reflect just a sliver of his professional growth. It is also substantial that Roethlisberger whose 51 regular-season victories are more than any starting quarterback posted in his first five seasons, dating at least to 1950 has established himself as a bedrock leader for the Steelers since that last Super Bowl.

His position undoubtedly demands leadership. Yet the 2005 campaign that ended with the Super Bowl XL crown was just his second NFL season, and he was surrounded by veterans such as Bettis and offensive linemen Alan Faneca, Kendall Simmons and Marvel Smith.

Bettis is on NBC's studio set now. Faneca left as a free agent. And with Simmons and Smith on injured reserve, Roethlisberger's line includes four new starters.

The line is a good place to start in measuring Roethlisberger's effectiveness as a leader. That's the group he had dinner with on Monday night and took to Chicago during the season to celebrate center Justin Hartwig's birthday. During the offseason, Roethlisberger hosted the line for a weekend at his lakefront home in Georgia.

"I feel close to this group," Roethlisberger says. "The guys who are starting now, I'm kind of the old guy, and can take that Big Brother role. I want them to know how much I care about them. They're my livelihood. They protect me."

Some of the linemen are still prone to show Roethlisberger pictures on their digital cameras, reminiscing about the bonding experience in Georgia.

Roethlisberger's most vivid memory?

"It's hard to get a big guy on a tube," he says.

"Usually, lakes don't make waves," remembers backup lineman Trai Essex. "But we made a lot of waves that weekend."

Essex, a fourth-year pro, says the O-line has never been as close as it is this season, and he believes that chemistry transfers to the field.

Then there's the annual softball game that Roethlisberger organizes, traditionally held on the last evening of training camp. It has sparked good-natured ribbing. With Roethlisberger at shortstop, Ward at third base and coach Mike Tomlin behind the plate as umpire for the latest installment of the game in August (Roethlisberger brought the equipment), the offense defeated the defense, again.

"We've won every year since I've been here," Roethlisberger beamed. "Undefeated."

Says defensive tackle Chris Hoke: "Ben's really proud of that. It's like bragging rights. But it seems like the offense always cheats. That's why they always win. If it's a close play at first base and they're out, they always argue that they're safe."

Although Roethlisberger sees his progression as leader as a natural byproduct amid the constantly evolving nature of a football team, he doesn't deny that his comfort is part of a design. No longer is he concerned about stepping on toes when exerting himself.

"It is just maturity over time," says Ward. "He knows this is his team. We go as far as Ben takes us."

Not everything about Roethlisberger flows from a precise design. Perhaps no quarterback in the NFL improvises as well as Roethlisberger to create big plays, a potential swing factor the Arizona Cardinals are bracing for in Super Bowl XLIII.

Although the 46 sacks he took in the regular season were second-most in the NFL at least partly indicative of a habit of holding onto the ball while trying to make plays downfield Roethlisberger is just as prone to use his 6-5, 241-pound frame to shake off pass-rushers who seemingly have him nailed in their clutches.

A 65-yard TD connection with Santonio Holmes in the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens was a classic example of the sandlot quality that Roethlisberger often uses to burn defenses. He shook off a rusher, scampered to his left, stutter-stepped to his right and avoided a second wave, then hit Holmes who broke his route back towards the quarterback. Holmes then criss-crossed the field to get to the end zone.

"Those are some of the things that can't be taught," Holmes says.

Holmes prefers plays that are executed precisely as designed in the playbook. Yet every member of the offense the targets altering routes and linemen holding their blocks a bit longer realizes the magic that Roethlisberger can create on the fly.

"A lot of what happens is just natural, backyard football," says tight end Heath Miller. "When he starts to move around, you just try to find an open hole. Sometimes when he's scrambling, that's really when the play just starts."

On the red carpet, that is known as pure drama.

Wolfhound45
01-29-2009, 09:54 PM
Excellent article. Right on the money too.

In order to explain his performance in SB XL, we need to play word association.

"Jerome Bettis"

"HOF running back"

"Detroit"

I think one of the biggest reasons that Ben played as tight as he did was his respect for Jerome Bettis. He was having fun in the Wild Card, Divisional, and the Championship rounds. He was doing what he loves to do, play football. However, the enormity of the moment hit him when he arrived in Detroit. If he screwed up, no SB championship for the Bus. In my opinion, it showed. Fortunately, he survived his jitters and the Steelers won the game.

Trust me, he will not have the same problems this game. As long as the line holds up, he is going to light up the Cardinals secondary.

Guaranteed.

Scarletfire1970
01-29-2009, 09:57 PM
Good article.

He better play well. I am getting sick of hearing about his poor SB performance last time. He's got a chance to redeem himself.

NKySteeler
01-29-2009, 10:03 PM
... I am expecting "complete and total redemption".... :wink:

Steeler Shades
01-29-2009, 10:08 PM
... I am expecting "complete and total redemption".... :wink:
I'd be happy with Ben playing within himself like he has during the last two games. Play smart, throw to the short receivers if that is what the defense is giving and avoid the TOs and sacks. Another SB ring will be all the redemption BB needs. 8)

steelblood
01-30-2009, 10:37 AM
This is very bad imho. Ben should not be thinking about that game right now. Confidence is fickle thing and Ben's was badly shaken in that game. That is not where I want his head.

proudpittsburgher
01-30-2009, 10:46 AM
First season in the league, Ben played pretty great during the season, then had an OK game in the divisional round, and a bad game in the AFC title game

Second season in the league, he played phenominal, and I mean phenominal, in the wild card/divisional playoffs/AFCC game, then really poor in the super bowl.

It's been a process for him. Each year, he's gotten better. I see no reason why 2005 would effect him going into this year's big game. Ben's been through so much his first five years in the league, he's now a veteran.

JAR
01-30-2009, 10:59 AM
Eli winning the SB last year probably put another chip on Ben's shoulder. He's out to prove he's the best QB from that class.

steelblood
01-30-2009, 11:18 AM
ProudPittsburgher,

Did you ever notice Carter's reaction to Clark's hit in your sig. Carter is behind in coverage and as Clark hits Welker, Carter raises his hands to his head like he is protecting himself or totally freaked out. It is very funny.

proudpittsburgher
01-30-2009, 11:46 AM
ProudPittsburgher,

Did you ever notice Carter's reaction to Clark's hit in your sig. Carter is behind in coverage and as Clark hits Welker, Carter raises his hands to his head like he is protecting himself or totally freaked out. It is very funny.

:lol: :lol: I'd say the breeze from the hit gave tyrone carter a slight concussion, but that story will be saved for the legend known as James Harrison. As in, "James Harrison hit Wes Welker so hard, he gave two guys a concussion." :tt2

Chadman
01-30-2009, 11:57 AM
Chadman is getting sick of this BS about Ben having a bad game in the SB.

Yeah- statistically, he was poor.

But it was BEN R that threw a super tight bullet into double coverage on 3rd & a bit to hit Hines Ward at the 1 yard line- a throw few QB's could have made.

And it was BEN R that crashed over for a TD.

If you want to play stats- then yeah, Ben was poor. But two plays made by Ben won that SB for the Steelers- Chadman doesn't care what people say.

If you judge games by the amount of 'gamechanging' plays a guy is in on, Ben had a decent game.

Vital, even.