Tag:Ben Roethlisberger
Posted on: December 9, 2011 12:40 pm

Pick-Six Podcast: Week 14 NFL preview

By Will Brinson & Ryan Wilson

The Steelers handled the Browns on Thursday night, but it was a bizarre game -- on today's podcast we break down Ben Roethlisberger's injury, how he managed to keep playing, whether the Steelers should be concerned, and if James Harrison is going to get fined and/or suspended.

Then we take a spin around the NFL action scheduled for Sunday, wondering if Oakland is a sleeper to take down Green Bay (no, really!), if Chris Johnson can keep running against the Saints, whether the Falcons are playoff-worthy, if Tim Tebow can take down the Bears, if Jim Schwartz can wrangle the Lions and whether we'd rather have Tony Romo or Eli Manning for the rest of their careers.

Did we mention that you should subscribe to the podcast via iTunes?

If you can't listen to the podcast below, download it here. And if you'd like to keep working while listening in your browser, pop that puppy out in a new tab here.

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Posted on: December 9, 2011 10:00 am
Edited on: December 9, 2011 12:33 pm

Big Ben in walking boot, thought 'leg was broken'

By Will Brinson

Pittsburgh beat Cleveland 14-3 on Thursday night, but nothing about the victory was easy. Ben Roethlisberger suffered a nasty ankle injury that looked a lot worse at the time, but eventually returned and led the Steelers to a win.

When the injury happened, though, Roethlisberger didn't think he'd be walking back out. In fact, he said after the game he thought the "leg was broken" although it turned out to just be a high ankle sprain, though he was seen leaving the stadium in a walking boot.

"“I thought my leg was broken, honestly," Roethlisberger said after the game, per our Steelers Rapid Reporter Chuck Finder. “We’ll find out how bad it is. Feels like my [left] ankle’s about to explode."

Roethlisberger also added, via Finder, that he couldn't "drop back to pass" after the injury, so his success was entirely dependent on the offensive line keeping the pocket clean for him, which they did.

Ben left the stadium in a walking boot on Thursday night and as Mike Tomlin pointed out after the game, probably going to be on the injury report when the Steelers play again in 10 days.

The good news for the Steelers is that Ben's got time to heal and, as my colleague Ryan Wilson pointed out last night, it's not like "being injured" exactly turns Roethlisberger into an unproductive quarterback.

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Posted on: December 9, 2011 12:17 am
Edited on: December 9, 2011 12:19 am

Injury not enough to stop Roethlisberger in win

A high-ankle sprain wasn't enough to keep Roethlisberger from playing the 2nd half against Cleveland. (Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

For the fourth time in five seasons, head coach Mike Tomlin has the Steelers at 9-3. On Thursday night, however, it required something more than your typical Ben Roethlisberger performance. On most nights, that means holding the ball too long in the pocket, fighting off would-be tacklers, taking more hits than anybody should be able to take, and making plays. On most nights, he comes out the other side bruised but no worse for wear.

Against the Browns, it was a different story, one that takes Big Ben, football player, from cult hero to legend in the span of the halftime intermission. With 6:02 to go in the second quarter with the Steelers leading, 7-3, two Cleveland defender made a Roethlisberger sandwich, and he turned his ankle badly in the process.

Big Ben, in obvious pain and unable to put weight on his left leg, needed two Steelers' assistants to help him to the tunnel, where he took a cart to the locker room. Charlie Batch, who has started for Roethlisberger six times since 2004, played two series before the half.


And then, minutes after NFL Network's Alex Flanagan reported that the Steelers had "positive" news about Roethlisberger's ankle injury, Big Ben, with his ankle heavily taped, limped out onto the field to begin the second half and didn't miss another snap.

Pittsburgh leaned heavily on Rashard Mendenhall to start the second half and he averaged 5.5 yards per carry. But the Steelers are a passing team, even with a one-legged quarterback. So that's what they did … even with a one-legged quarterback.

By the time it was over, Roethlisberger was 16 of 21 for 280 yards and two touchdowns, the last a 79-yarder to Antonio Brown with 2:52 remaining to put the game away for good.

For the Browns, it was more of the same: an offense unable to score points, protect the quarterback or avoid dropped passes in critical situations. Colt McCoy ended the game 18 of 35 for 209 yards but threw two interceptions, the back-breaker coming two plays before Roethlisberger-to-Brown broke the game wide open. A pass into the end zone intended for Mohamed Massaquoi was intercepted by William Gay.

A touchdown there would have given Cleveland a 10-7 lead with three minutes on the clock. Instead, Pittsburgh got the ball at the 20, still leading 7-3, and in the time it took cornerback Joe Haden to fall down, Brown hauled in a Big Ben pass and streaked 79 yards down the sideline.

After the game, Tomlin said Roethlisberger has a high-ankle sprain, but unlike just about anybody else on the planet, it wasn't enough to keep him on the sidelines.

"The doctor said he was okay to go, he wanted to go," said Tomlin. "I'll always give him an opportunity to show what he's capable of. We know what kind of competitor he is, we know his pain tolerance, we know what he's capable of."

Brown, quickly becoming one of Big Ben's favorite targets, called Roethlisberger's return to start the second half "rejuvenating."

"The guy exemplifies toughness … we needed him out there and it was exciting to have him back," he continued. "He persevered through the situation and made the plays we needed to win the game."

The Steelers now have 10 days off to prepare for a Monday-night matchup against the 49ers, and if Thursday night was any indication, Big Ben will be on the field in San Francisco.

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Posted on: December 8, 2011 9:39 pm
Edited on: December 10, 2011 10:00 pm

Big Ben leaves with injury, returns limping

Big Ben left in the second quarter with a left ankle injury. He returned to start the second half. (AP)

By Ryan Wilson

UPDATE: 10:09 p.m. ET -- Ben Roethlisberger, with his ankle heavily taped, limped out onto the field to start the second half. He was met with loud cheers but is clearly limited by the injury. There hasn't been an official diagnosis, but the speculation is that it's a high-ankle sprain.

UPDATE: 10:02 p.m. ET
-- During halftime, NFL Network's Alex Flanagan had this report: "I had an opportunity to speak to Mike Tomlin and he called the news 'positive' about Ben Roethlisberger. He had an X-ray on his ankle, that X-ray is negative. [Tomlin's] not sure if it's a high-ankle sprain or a lower leg issue, telling me that he would know a little bit more once he got in the locker room at the half and evaluated Ben a little more. His availability is still up in the air. Charlie Batch came in for him. Hines Ward would be the next (quarterback), he played at Georgia.

"But also concerning: (center) Maurkice Pouncey, we just saw him carted off into the X-ray room. Also an ankle issue. Doug Legursky likely taking the second half for (Pouncey)."

Midway through the second half with the Steelers leading the Browns, 7-3, Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger rolled right looking for a big play down the field to one of his young wide receivers. The Browns had great coverage, and Roethlisberger, as he's known to do, held the ball waiting for something to develop. As often happens, he was sacked, this time by two Cleveland defenders at once, and in the process, suffered a left ankle injury.

He left the field with the aid of two assistants and he was limping badly.

Roethlisberger has a history of injuries and a history of playing through them but upon first appearances this looked bad.

Veteran Charlie Batch replaced Big Ben in the lineup, something he's done at various points during his Steelers career.


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Posted on: December 1, 2011 1:36 pm
Edited on: December 1, 2011 3:13 pm

Big Ben thinks Andy Dalton is rookie of the year

Who ya got for Rookie of the Year: Dalton or Newton? (Getty Images)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

You probably wouldn't get much argument if Panthers quarterback Cam Newton ends up winning the 2011 NFL Rookie of the Year. Without the benefit of minicamps and OTAs, the first overall pick, with just six weeks of practice and facing intense scrutiny, has played like a veteran, pretty much from the moment he stepped on the field in Week 1. He threw for 854 yards in his first two games, and his otherwordly talents coupled with poise beyond his years made him a natural candidate for the award.

Despite the marked upgrade at quarterback, the Panthers are just a three-win outfit with five games remaining. A year ago, with overmatched rookie quarterback Jimmy Clausen under center, Carolina managed to go 2-14. We bring this up not as a knock on Newton's accomplishments to date, but to point out that he's not the only quarterback in the Rookie-of-the-Year running.

Andy Dalton, the Bengals' second-round pick out of TCU and who we've taken to calling Ginger Power (nobody's asked Dalton's his thoughts on it but it has to be better than Red Rifle), has been more important to his team's success this season than Newton. Cincy began the year 6-2, and even after losses to the Steelers and Ravens in recent weeks, at 7-4 they're currently the AFC's No. 6 team. That's good for the final playoff spot.

There's more than a month to go in the regular season, including rematches against Pittsburgh and Baltimore, but given how far the Bengals have come in just a short period (they were 4-12 a year ago before dumping Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens, and eventually trading Carson Palmer to the Raiders), Dalton deserves to be in the Rookie of the Year conversation.

Looking at passer ratings over the first 11 games and there's little difference between Dalton and Newton. According to Football Outsiders' QB efficiency metrics, Dalton currently ranks 10th. Newton is 18th.  Compare their numbers below.

And we're not the only folks beating that drum. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is on board, too.

“The things that he does that you just see or expect from rookie quarterbacks," Big Ben said, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. Anticipating throws. There were a couple of throws last time we played them, and I was on the sideline and I told the story of when, but we’ve got a guy right in his face, the receiver is still running a route, he throws an out route and the guy breaks right to the ball and its perfect. Some of the things he did were really impressive. Right now I think, and I don’t know how the talk is, but he’s rookie of the year. I think he’s that good of a quarterback.”

This Sunday, Andy Dalton and the Cincinnati Bengals will travel to Heinz field to take on the Pittsburgh Steelers. Join Jason Horowitz and NFL.com's Pat Kirwan as they take a look at this matchup. Watch the game on CBS at 1 PM ET.

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Posted on: November 25, 2011 1:06 pm

Ward unlikely to regain starting job anytime soon

Ward puts the team first before individual accomplishments. (Getty Images)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

For the first time since Week 1 of the 2000 season, a span of 184 games, a healthy Hines Ward wasn't in the Steelers' starting lineup when Pittsburgh faced Cincinnati on November 13. Instead, second-year wideout Antonio Brown replaced Ward and that doesn't look to change anytime soon.

Through 10 games, Mike Wallace leads the team with 53 catches and 922 receiving yards. Brown is second (44 catches, 626 yards), followed by tight end Heath Miller (38, 465) and then Ward (27, 268).

But Ward, one of the most popular and productive players in Steelers history, is just 19 catches short of 1,000 for his career, which has been accomplished just seven times previously. With six games left on the schedule, it's reasonable to think he could reach the milestone by January, but as his role diminishes so too will the opportunities.

Days after Brown replaced him against the Bengals, Ward was accepting of his new role.

"It's not about me, it's about the team," he said on November 16, via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "The bottom line is, we won the (Cincinnati) game. …

"It's a different role. I am still going to be the biggest cheerleader because I want to win. Whatever I can do to help this team win ball games, giving advice or when my number is called (by) making a play. Just continue doing that and have a positive attitude."

The Pittsburgh Steelers will prepare to take on the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday night at Arrowhead Stadium. Who will come out with the victory? NFL.com's Pat Kirwan and Jason Horowitz take a look at this matchup.

But it wasn't just the case of Brown starting over Ward. Jerricho Cotchery, signed to a one-year deal during free agency, got Ward's snaps as the slot receiver, and he even scored a touchdown against the Bengals. But Cotchery called Ward "my biggest supporter."

Wallace, who Ward has taken under his wing, added: "As soon as I'd get to the sidelines, he'd be like, 'You should have done this, you should have done that. I saw this, I saw that,'. He sees everything and knows everything that's going on. He's like an extra coach out there. "When you have a guy that's been here and the situation he's in and he's still positive about it, how can I come to the sidelines and be down or mad or have anything bad to say?"

Head coach Mike Tomlin was asked Tuesday about Ward's place on the depth chart.

"That is to be determined," he said, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. … "Obviously, Hines is a very capable man, as are some others. We will do what is best in terms of giving us an opportunity to win this game."

Ward's touches could be even tougher to come by going forward. One of Pittsburgh's other young wideouts, Emmanuel Sanders, is expected to return to the lineup either this Sunday or next after missing time with a knee injury.

For now, though, Ward seems to have come to terms with his fate. And it hasn't gone unnoticed.

“On this team, there are a lot of great players who have an opportunity to put up big numbers and stats,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said, via the Beaver County Times. “As Coach (Arians) touched on, for us to be a true Super Bowl contender, people have to put their own personal goals and Pro Bowl things and things like that on the back shelf for the betterment of the team. I think Hines has done that.”

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Posted on: November 23, 2011 11:07 pm

Film Room: Steelers vs. Chiefs preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit

Let’s be honest: Chiefs-Steelers is not a great matchup. It’s the Sunday night game because this week’s great matchups all fall on Turkey Day. A straight-up breakdown of this game would yield predictable analysis, with a “take your pick” list of reasons why the Steelers can be expected to cruise to victory (the most obvious being, Tyler Palko’s tendency to pat the ball and re-hitch in the pocket; if the Patriots D generated sacks and interceptions off that weakness, what will the Steelers D do?).

But this matchup is certainly not worthless. Analyzing its contrasts and comparisons gives us a chance to examine some of the broader pictures of today’s NFL. Here are five of them.

1. Valuing an offensive line
As passing games have evolved rapidly in recent years, we’ve started to change our outlook on offensive lines. These days every lineman weighs north of 300, and a lot of them move pretty well. What separates good and bad lines is the mental approach. The aggressiveness and versatility of blitzing defenses has put a premium on blockers’ intelligence.

It doesn’t matter how well a lineman moves his feet if those feet are taking him to the wrong assignment. With the league-wide increase in Byzantine defenses and quick, timing-based passes, for an offensive lineman, recognizing an assignment is often more challenging and important than executing an assignment.

The Steelers offensive line, battling countless injuries and personnel changeability the past few seasons, has struggled mightily at times in recognizing pass-blocking assignments. This is a window into another revelation. The idea that you need a great offensive line to protect your quarterback is becoming less and less valid. The reality is you need a great quarterback to protect your offensive line.

Now, don’t take this too far. Of course you need to protect your quarterback. But in today’s pass-oriented league, one superstar quarterback can compensate for five “not-so-superstar” offensive linemen. Most superstar quarterbacks do it through presnap reads (see Brees, Drew or Manning, Peyton -- two guys who have played behind arguably the worst offensive tackle combinations of their respective conferences the past few years). Ben Roethlisberger does it through incredible postsnap improvisational abilities.

No one can argue that the Steelers have had anything more than an average offensive line the past five seasons. But no one can argue that the Steelers offense has not been still been successful. It’s when your quarterback is, say a 28-year-old left-handed fringe backup, that your offensive line woes become problematic.

2. 3-4 defensive ends
A leading ingredient to the Steelers’ defensive success has been the outstanding play of their ends. This ingredient was secret until just recently, when Brett Keisel finally went to the Pro Bowl and casual observers finally appreciated Aaron Smith after injuries took him out of the lineup. The value of great 3-4 ends is that they can attract forms of double teams.

(We say forms of double-teams because there’s a misguided belief that a double-team is one player needing to be blocked by two blockers for an entire play; in reality, for an end, attracting a double-team simply means forcing a guard or tight end to make some sort of contact with you in a manner that prevents them from being able to get out in front and block an inside linebacker. Making that contact last the first 1.5 to 2 seconds of a play is all it takes. For many intents and purposes, a 3-4 end is actually more of a blocker than a pulling guard.)

The Steelers scheme calls for the ends to disrupt through motion more than power. Lateral mobility is a key trait. If both ends are destructive along the line of scrimmage, Pittsburgh’s three defensive linemen will stalemate the opposing team’s five offensive linemen, leaving room for the four linebackers to make plays. Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert recognizes the value of this; he invested his ‘09 first-round pick on Ziggy Hood and his ’11 first-rounder on Cameron Heyward.

Scott Pioli also recognized this value when he became the Chiefs general manager in 2009. He converted defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, the No. 5 overall pick in ’08, to end and spent his No. 3 overall pick in ’09 on LSU’s Tyson Jackson. The results, however, have been disappointing. Dorsey and Jackson are both movement-oriented players. Problem is, Kansas City’s scheme is more like New England’s old 3-4, where the ends cause disruption not through motion but through sheer power.

Consequently, neither Dorsey nor Jackson have been worthy of consistent double teams. That was painfully apparent watching the Broncos-Chiefs film from Week 10. The Broncos didn’t win that game because Tim Tebow mastered the read option -- they won because their tackles manhandled the Chiefs ends one-on-one, allowing the guards to easily get a body on inside linebackers Derrick Johnson and Javon Belcher.

3. Chiefs Injuries impact -- tight end versatility
You could argue that Kansas City’s season ended when tight end Tony Moeaki tore his ACL in August. Moeaki was not just a flexible receiver who could work off the line of scrimmage or out of the slot -- he was also a versatile run-blocker. His ability to operate out of shifts and motions brought potency to the play-action game and allowed the Chiefs to disguise a lot of their run concepts.

In this sense, Moeaki was very similar to Heath Miller, Pittsburgh’s steady, soft-handed, fundamentally fine-tuned X-factor. In today’s NFL, where every play is preceded by a chess match at the line of scrimmage, a tight end who is versatile in the run AND pass game is invaluable.

4. Chiefs injury impact -- safety versatility
Same concept as tight end, just different side of the ball. The loss of Eric Berry (ACL Week 1) not only took away Kansas City’s rangiest pass defender, it also took away Romeo Crennel’s third-level blitzes, which previously had given opponents fits. Berry’s speed and open-field hitting made him an easily disguisable weapon. With him out, the Chiefs don’t just lose his big plays, they also lose the indecisiveness that his presence naturally instills in opponents.

As far as a parallel to this in the Steelers defense ... you can probably figure it out on your own

5. Understanding the value of a playmaker
On a similar note, let’s take this opportunity to grasp the full value of a playmaker like Jamaal Charles (lost for the season with an ACL in Week 2). As with Berry, when a weapon like Charles goes out, you don’t just lose explosive plays, you lose the threat of explosive plays. Charles was Kansas City’s only true playmaker (that is, a guy who can regularly create his own opportunities with the ball in his hands; the Steelers have two players like this: Roethlisberger and Mike Wallace).

It would take 10,000 words to explain, but in short, in watching film, it’s apparent that the difference between the way defenses attack an offense that has a truly explosive weapon versus the way a defense attacks an offense that don’t have one is staggering.

That likely stems from the difference in preparation during the week. Think about it. How much practice time does a defense devote specifically to “not getting killed” by Charles? With him gone, that’s how much practice time the defense now has to devote towards creating unique ways to attack.

A business analogy: as a defense, prepping for Charles is like sitting around the boardroom talking about covering your bases so you don’t get sued; prepping for “no Charles” is like sitting around the boardroom brainstorming the next big idea. Which meeting will ultimately lead to more sales?

What’s more, for an offense, when it becomes apparent that your gameplan is not working, a true playmaker still offers the hope and possibility of success. (And all the players know this.) Without a true playmaker, a staggering offense often hopes to simply control the damage by waiting for a lucky break. When that’s reflected in the play-calling, the entire team becomes reactionary.

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all Week 12 games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: November 22, 2011 11:15 am

Gronkowski says he wouldn't admit concussion

Gronkowski had two touchdowns Monday. On the second score (above) he narrowly avoided serious injury. (US PRESSWIRE)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is one of Tom Brady's favorite targets, which also qualifies him as one of the league's best pass-catchers. That's one of the benefits to playing in New England's offense. For the season, the second-year player out of Arizona has 56 receptions for 805 yards and 10 touchdowns, including a season long 52-yard score against the Chiefs Monday night. He is, as our CBSSports.com colleague Mike Freeman explains, "a special player with unforgettable talent."

But it was Gronkowski's second touchdown, a 19-yarder in the third quarter, that left him groggy after he landed awkwardly on his neck.

Gronkowski says he's fine after landing on his neck in the end zone.

Following the game, Gronkowski was asked if he remembered the touchdown.

“I remember the moment and everything,” Gronkowski said, via Larry Brown Sports (by way of PFT). “If I didn’t I still wouldn’t even say I didn’t. I’m trying to play this week.”

Gronkowski, who's listed at 6-6, 265, later joked about what could've been a serious injury.  On the bench after the play, the Patriots' training staff checked him for concussion-like symptoms.

"Yeah, they kept asking me, and I started throwing out my own math problems," Gronkowski said, according to ESPN.com. "I was like, 'Dude, I can count to 10,' and I started counting to 10," he said. "That's pretty easy though, so they kept letting me play."

It's easier to laugh knowing that Gronkowski is okay. And while we applaud him for his toughness, confessing that he'd lie to stay in the game is a problem for a league committed to making the game as safe as possible (obvious exception: the 18-game schedule).

As PFT's Michael David Smith pointed out, Gronkowski's not alone. Ben Roethlisberger and Peyton Manning have said previously that they'd tell the doctors what they want to hear to get back on the field.

One solution: in-game concussion tests. If the NFL truly is serious about head injuries, that should be (ahem) a no-brainer.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com