Big Ben comes up big
Steelers' turning point and more Week 10 analysis
Posted: Monday November 12, 2007 2:11AM; Updated: Tuesday November 13, 2007 12:54AM
NEW YORK -- Week 10 was odd. The Cowboys exerted their control on the NFC East, and the Giants spit the pressure bit in the second half; no surprise there. The Rams looked like the Martz-era Rams and won their first game. The Lions looked like the Mornhinweg-era Lions and lost their third game.
Green Bay's Ryan Grant, who was a Giants practice-squadder last year, did this week what LaDainian Tomlinson, the NFL MVP last year, couldn't do last week -- shred the Vikings' run defense. The Colts fielded an intramural team at San Diego, with someone named Mike Toudouze blocking Shawne Merriman at crunch time, and Adam Vinatieri missing a game-winning chippy. Not to mention the kind of game Peyton Manning's going to throw up over when he watches tape of it today. He threw six interceptions at San Diego last night. In the previous 50 quarters, he'd thrown five.
None of those items, however, was the story of the day. Ben Roethlisberger was. When I watched Roethlisberger last year, I thought, "Flawed quarterback.'' When I watched Roethlisberger on Sunday, I thought, "Franchise quarterback.''
I didn't like his lackadaisical decision-making last year, or his declining accuracy, or what I'd heard his teammates say about his work ethic. Maybe it was right, and maybe it wasn't. But Roethlisberger wasn't the most popular guy in his own locker room last year, and he needed a change. He got it.
A change of coaches, to the blank-slate Mike Tomlin, who treated Roethlisberger as more of a team-leader type than Bill Cowher did -- whether Big Ben deserved it or not. And Roethlisberger has responded. Through 10 weeks, he's the NFL's second-ranked quarterback, behind Tom Brady, and Sunday's performance in a 31-28 win over Cleveland might have been the best of his career.
Not just his numbers, which were good but not Favrian: 23 of 34, 278 yards, two touchdowns, one interception. Pretty common numbers. But it was the way he played, and the way he came back under pressure, including a lumbering long touchdown run, that left Hines Ward shaking his head after the game.
"That was a John Elway game out there today by Ben,'' Ward said by phone last night. "You remember Elway running [in the Super Bowl against Green Bay], like he wasn't going to be stopped, and he went flying through the air. Today, you had to see the expression on Ben's face on the touchdown run to believe it. I've never seen that look on his face before, ever.''