With Big Ben it isn't always pretty, but he finds a way to win
Big Ben didn't have great numbers Sunday, but made plays when it mattered
Roethlisberger was suspended for four games for piggish behavior in offseason
Now with third Super Bowl appearance, Big Ben is entering Joe Montana territory
PITTSBURGH -- We know the celebrity quarterbacks. Tom Brady has won three Super Bowls, is married to a supermodel and gets to meet Popes and presidents. Peyton Manning cuts that meat, wins multiple MVPs and occasionally is mentioned as the greatest ever. Drew Brees was Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year. Aaron Rodgers is Super Bowl-bound, the flavor of the month in January 2011. Michael Vick is infamous. Even Philip Rivers gets into the discussion.
And then there's Ben Roethlisberger, the double-wide quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Roethlisberger is going to his third Super Bowl. Not bad for a 28-year-old quarterback from Miami (Ohio). He is 10-2 in the playoffs. He is 6-foot-5, 240 pounds and can beat you in a lot of different ways.
Sunday night at Heinz Field, Roethlisberger completed only 10 of 19 passes for 133 yards. He did not throw a touchdown pass and he was intercepted twice. He took a safety. He led an offense that was shut out in the second half.
But he won. He almost always wins. He ran the ball 11 times for 21 yards, including a long gainer of 12. He scrambled to his right for a two-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
"We have a lot of tenacity,'' said Roethlisberger. "We have a don't-quit attitude and mentality. We have a belief in each other.''
Rex Ryan had a bad feeling about playing Big Ben. Rex talked a good game when his Jets beat Manning and the Colts in Indianapolis. Rex called out Brady before the Jets beat the Patriots in Foxboro. But he knew Roethlisberger was a different beast. And he was right. Unlike Manning and Brady, Roethlisberger was able to move in the pocket, scramble and run. He made the Jets' defense vulnerable.
Pittsburgh's game-opening touchdown drive was a 16-play, 66-yard beauty that took over nine minutes. It set a tone. The Steelers were not going to be confused or stopped on offense.
The Steelers went ahead 24-0 late in the first half but had to hold off a furious second-half rally by the bold New Yorkers. After the Jets cut it to 24-19 with three minutes left, Roethlisberger sealed the victory with a 14-yard completion to Antonio Brown on a third-and-six with the clock winding down and the Jets out of timeouts.
"We weren't going to play not to lose,'' said Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin. "That's why we threw the ball to Heath Miller on a bootleg on second down prior to that and we got the first down.''
"It was a gutsy play,'' admitted Ryan. It was a great throw and a gutsy play.''
"Every time he needs to make a play he does,'' said Steelers safety Ryan Clark of Roethlisberger. "If we don't get that and it's incomplete, it stops the clock. But once again he came through and made a big play and came through for us.''
Roethlisberger's piggish offseason behavior got him suspended for the first four games of this NFL season. After last night's win, he was asked if he looks back to the beginning of the season, and he cut off the question with, "I don't. I don't. I'll stop you now. I don't. Not at all.''
Big Ben played poorly in his first Super Bowl victory over the Seahawks. He could have been MVP when he won his second one against the Cardinals, but the award went to Santonio Holmes, who made the spectacular game-winning catch. Among quarterbacks with 10 or more playoff games, Roethlisberger's 10-2 record trails only Bart Starr's 9-1 mark. Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw are the only quarterbacks who've won four Super Bowls.
Big Ben goes for No. 3 in two weeks. "Any time you get to the Super Bowl it feels good,'' he said. "I don't care what you're going through or what is going on. We put a lot of stuff behind us early and found a way to get it done. We weren't always the prettiest team, but we had guys step up and fill in for guys in critical times in games this season.''
Jets linebacker Bart Scott spoke for many when he talked about Roethlisberger during conference championship week.
"The respect we have for Ben is that we don't look at him as a diva quarterback,'' said Scott. "We look at him as a football player. In this league, especially now, quarterbacks are treated pretty much like it's flag football. But he's one that's willing to take the hits and look down the barrel of a gun for his team.''
Brady, Manning, Brees, Vick and Rivers are all done for the season.
Big Ben is back in the Super Bowl. He's nothing like Aaron Rodgers. But he usually wins.
Dan Shaughnessy is a columnist for The Boston Globe. Read more of his columns here.