If there is one thing I have learned watching Ben Roethlisberger its this. When the game is on the line, there are few like him that can be the difference when it comes to winning and losing and making the big play at the end of a game. Sunday’s game between the upstart Jets and the been there, done that Steelers will come down to one players difference and I’m here to tell you that player will most likely be Roethlisberger.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not ready to anoint the Steelers the representative for the AFC in this year’s upcoming Super Bowl. I have a great respect for Rex Ryan and his Gang Green. They have now made it to back-to-back AFC title games, doing it with a 2nd year QB in Mark Sanchez who is your typical Jeckel/Hyde type at his profession. Despite Sanchez’s shortcomings, Ryan and the rest of his clan have made it back to the Conference Championship game with victory on their mind.
The Jets possess a great offensive line that does a tremendous job of protecting their signal caller, allowing him time to get the ball downfield to an array of targets, including Steelers reject Santonio Holmes. Since being tossed aside by the Steelers in April and serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, Holmes has been nothing less than stellar making leaping grabs and anchoring a deep receiving corp that includes Braylon Edwards, Jerricho Cotchery and Tight End Dustin Keller.
One could make the argument that a Steelers defender, perhaps Troy Polamalu could make a large play late to help seal a win. Maybe it could be James Harrison recording a big sack and strip, causing a key turnover that puts him in the spotlight.
I’m here to say its going to be Ben.
Roethlisberger is one of those ‘once in a lifetime’ players who has done it before. And I think he’s poised to do it again. There has been much chaos surrounding Big Ben this season, more than normal. The Milledgeville moment aside, when you lump in the four game suspension to start the season and mix in an engagement towards the end of the year, Ben has had much to distract him from playing well.
You be the judge when it comes to that. If you look at his numbers, Roethlisberger was as efficient this year in just 12 games than he has been over 16. He threw for a career low five interceptions this season, against 17 touchdown passes. His YPA was 8.2, a number higher than his career average and he was only sacked 32 times, the fewest since 2005 when he was dropped just 23 times over 12 games.
When called upon, Roethlisberger has the ability to will his team downfield. Need 40 yards to get into game winning field goal range? Not a problem. Inside your 20 with under three minutes to play needing a touchdown to win? Got that covered. For Ben, these pressure moments seem to bring out his best.
I must admit that this season has been void of one of those for Roethlisberger. Granted, there were moments where he flashed brilliance, but when you look at the schedule, there really isn’t one game that jumps out where you can say Roethlisberger had one of those last second moments where he stole victory from the jaws of defeat.
That’s why it makes sense to believe that moment is upon us.
A decisive win led by Roethlisberger on Sunday will only further to cement his legacy as a great quarterback, perhaps the greatest ever to wear black and gold. There are many who have already placed him above Terry Bradshaw as the greatest quarterback in team history. I am not one of those who believes that just yet. Another Super Bowl ring would help in that argument.
It’s hard to imagine Ben not doing it once again. Since joining the NFL in 2004, nobody has won more Super Bowls than Roethlisberger, not Peyton Manning, nor Tom Brady. For as much talk of the Patriots dynasty, Ben has the chance to lead the Steelers to a third title in six years and that would lead to talk of the ’D’ word with this current version of the NFL’s premier franchise.
There will be over 100 players dressed and on the Heinz Field surface come Sunday. But only #7 has the power to make that magic happen and control the destiny of all the others that play. I’m betting Roethlisberger will steal the show and lead the Steelers to victory.
Steelers 24, Jets 20.
John Phillips is the author of this article and a secret member of the Galactic Empire. When he’s not chasing down Jedi across the Galaxy, he finds time to host weekend shows and anchor sports updates for 93.7 The Fan.