With all due respect to Charlie Batch and Terry Hanratty, this Roethlisberger guy is the best backup quarterback the Black and Gold have ever had. He might even have a future as a starter.
Ah, it’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt. Except in this case, the fun started when someone got hurt. Landry Jones left the game six plays in and Ben Roethlisberger came off the bench to lead the Pittsburgh Steelers to a 30-9 shellacking of the Cleveland Browns. It was the first time Big Ben rode to the rescue since that fabled day back in 2004 when he stepped in for an injured Tommy Maddox and ripped off thirteen straight wins.
I got a text from my dad mid-way through the first quarter asking, “Why are they risking Ben in a game Jones can win?” Evidently he decided to wash his car and thought they actually pulled the trigger on starting Ben. I wonder how many Fantasy Football people are pissed they left Roethlisberger on their bench only to see him go 22/33 for 379 yards and 3 TDs. It was a brilliant performance.
Of course it helps the Browns are an absolutely dreadful team. Nothing sums up their incompetence better than a sequence toward the end of the game where they had 1st and goal from the 5. It was set up by a fantastic play by Johnny Manziel, who somehow escaped two would-be sackers and then scrambled up the middle for 10 yards before being marked just short of the goal line. Manziel, 33/45 for 372 yards 1 TD/2 turnovers, reminds me of Kordell Stewart in that he has moments of sandlot brilliance mixed in with a lot of poor throws and dumb mistakes.
Anyway, first and goal and Cleveland’s next play was a TD run that was called back on holding. Repeat the play, repeat the result with an illegal formation penalty pushing them back another 5. Next snap, Manziel gets sacked for a 9 yard loss. So in the span of three plays they turned a TD from the 5 to 2nd and goal from the 25. But wait, there’s more, as Johnny Football’s desperate heave on 4th down ended up intercepted by Mike Mitchell.
The Steelers defense played extremely well yesterday. They forced three turnovers and sacked Manziel six times. There were the usual breakdowns, such as when Travis Benjamin got loose for a 61 yard bomb, but overall they did a great job of making the plays. The run defense in particular was stellar as Cleveland’s backs combined for a whopping 5 yards on 15 carries. Lawrence Timmons, Ryan Shazier, and Sean Spence are rock solid up the middle and Cam Heyward continues to be a beast off the end.
Offensively, the Steelers clearly took advantage of Cleveland playing without their top two corners. Martavis Bryant kept getting free for long bombs, finishing the day with 178 yards and 1 TD. Antonio Brown followed his record setting outing last week with another 10 catches for 139 yards and 2 TDs. Ben’s mobility was severely limited so they almost exclusively operated out the shotgun but the offensive line still did a nice job keeping him protected. Other than Marcus Gilbert knocking Landry out of the game when he stepped on his ankle after getting pushed back into him, the line had a pretty clean game.
Really the only person who didn’t join in the fun yesterday was DeAngelo Williams, who came back to earth with a 54 yard rushing day. To be fair, the only time Ben went under center was on running plays which basically told the Browns what was coming. They did some running out of shotgun but that’s not really their thing so its understandable he struggled until helping run out the clock late. I wouldn’t worry too much about Williams, though.
Nor would I worry about the Steelers. This win pushes them to 6-4 and puts them in good position as far as the AFC Wild Card race goes. And for once they went a week without losing someone to major injury. Ben and the rest of the team now have a week off to rest up for the stretch run before traveling out to Seattle to take on the reeling Seahawks. For the first time in memory, their bye couldn’t have come at a more perfect time.