COMMENTARY | The Pittsburgh Steelers enter the 2013 season with a chip on their collective shoulders and a focused desire to prove that their subpar 2012 campaign was an anomaly. It will be no easy feat, as questions abound for the team on both sides of the ball. Can the defensive front seven generate pressure on opposing quarterbacks, and can the secondary force the turnovers that were sorely lacking last year? Will a big-play threat emerge on offense, and can the running game once again find its footing? One thing is for sure, however, and that is if the Steelers are going to improve on their 8-8 record from a year ago, then quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is going to have to be the one to step up and lead the charge.
While we will have to wait for the season to unfold to get the answers to those questions, here are the five best plays of Roethlisberger's career to whet your appetite and remind everyone what the 10 year pro is capable of.
February 1, 2009 - Roethlisberger to Santonio Holmes in Super Bowl XLIII
It is hard to imagine a more difficult catch in a more pressure-filled situation than this one by Holmes, which would become the deciding points in a Super Bowl XLIII victory. How Holmes was able to get both toes inbounds with mere millimeters to spare is a remarkable display of awareness and athleticism. However, what may be even more impressive is the laser-like pass that Roethlisberger is able to thread into Holmes' hands, through triple coverage and while avoiding the pass rush. This play will go down as the quarterback's true defining moment, to date, and is in the running for best Super Bowl play in history.
I think that most of Steelers Nation will agree that Roethlisberger's impact on Super Bowl XL was negligible. The win over the Seahawks was predicated on the running game and the defense, hallmarks of our Pittsburgh teams for decades. That being said, there would have been no Super Bowl if Roethlisberger does not make this tackle against the Colts in the divisional playoff game that year. With seconds left on the clock, up 21-18, the Steelers were going for the coup de grace as running back Jerome Bettis attempted to punch one into the end zone to seal the game. Colts' linebacker Gary Brackett had other plans, popping the ball loose from Bettis' grasp, the only fumble of the season for a running back that almost never coughed it up. The ball was scooped up by defensive back Nick Harper, who seemingly had a clear path the other way to the end zone and the winning points for Indianapolis. Except there was Roethlisberger, who, while falling down and twisting his body in the opposite direction, was able to just barely grab Harper by the ankle and bring him down. Touchdown averted; game saved.
October 23, 2011 - Roethlisberger 95-yard TD to Mike Wallace
There are a number of amazing bombs thrown from Roethlisberger to Wallace during the four years that the two played together in Pittsburgh. This one just happens to be the longest passing play of Roethlisberger's career, as well as the longest pass play in Steelers history. While he is probably more well-known for his scrambling and elusiveness (more on that next), Roethlisberger's arm strength and accuracy are on full display here. For all the speed that Wallace possesses, it would matter little if he didn't have a quarterback like Big Ben who was able to hit him deep and hit him in stride. Roethlisberger was able to do this time and again, and with Wallace gone to the Miami Dolphins, he'll now get the chance to do so with rookie Markus Wheaton.
February 1, 2009 - Super Scramble
This is what Roethlisberger is known for, what separates him from other fine quarterbacks in the NFL and what makes him so dangerous to opposing defenses. This play in Super Bowl XLIII illustrates just how hard Roethlisberger is to bring down and how he is able to keep plays alive long after other quarterbacks would have simply thrown themselves to the ground. Tom Brady, anyone? This is a skill that is nearly singular to Roethlisberger - it's can't be taught and it can't be game-planned against. Sometimes it backfires, which can be attributed to the inordinate amount of sacks that Roethlisberger has collected over the years. But when Big Ben is on his game, like he so often is, you wind up with highlight plays that beggar the imagination and keep you glued to your seat for what yet may come.
November 11, 2007 - 30-yard TD Run
Touchdown runs of 30 yards are not typically found in the repertoire of a quarterback standing 6'5" tall and weighing 240 lbs, and who ran the 40 yard dash in 4.75 seconds. Yet here is, doing just that against the Browns back in 2007. While nothing meaningful hinged on this play, and no records of any sort were set by it, I included it because it shows off the Roethlisberger's versatility. We've seen what his arm can do, both in its strength and its accuracy, we've marveled at his escapability and impromptu scrambling and here we have a quarterback capable of out-sprinting a defense. You expect it from Michael Vick or RGIII. You smack your head when it's Roethlisberger.
So yeah, there is a lot riding on Roethlisberger this year and it seems he has less support around him than in recent years. But this is #7's team now and with him, every game should be competitive. As long as he keeps making plays like those above, I like his chances.
Sheldon Rodgers is a Pittsburgh native and is the third in a fourth generation Black & Gold Family. He has been published multiple newspapers and websites.
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