|Mike Tomlin will always have Big Ben's back, but continuing to see Bad Ben must wear him out. (Getty Images)|
INDIANAPOLIS -- So, here we are again, the year 2011, and we're still talking Good Ben/Bad Ben. The Ben Roethlisberger bad boy doppelganger won't go away. It never dies, like the guy in a horror movie wearing a ski mask, waiting behind the door.
The Good Ben scrambles and jukes and fakes. He buys time. He wrestles free of danger to throw a deep strike. Against the hapless Indianapolis Colts, he did this several times, saving drives and creating opportunities. Sidestepping a sack, once doing so for an 81-yard deep strike to Mike Wallace for a score. Late in Pittsburgh's 23-20 victory against the Colts, it was Roethlisberger's calmness and efficiency that won the game.
Then there's the Bad Ben. The bad one scrambles and jukes and fakes. He buys time. He wrestles free of danger to throw a deep strike. Or interception. Or allows the ball to come dribbling out. Against the Peyton-less Colts, he was again sloppy with the football, fumbling twice while moving about. The Bad Ben scrambled, was intercepted. The Bad Ben was almost decapitated by Colts defensive back Terrence Johnson while cockily scrambling along the sideline. The Bad Ben almost lost the game for Pittsburgh.
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The Bad Ben is the reason Pittsburgh came close to falling to quarterback Kerry Painter ... the two-headed monster of Kerry Collins, who was concussed out of action, and Curtis Painter, who looks like a member of the rock group Creed. The Steelers should have stomped the Colts' guts all over the turf but ended up in a fight for their lives because Arrogant Ben was too dominant for much of the game.
"You have to bounce back," Roethlisberger said of the turnovers, "and have a short memory. It's tough because on the sack/fumble you don't see the guy coming. You say protect the ball, but when you don't know a guy's there, it's kind of hard. Just have to take care of it. The pick, I had a guy open, but just overthrew him and that's how it goes."
Bad Ben, Good Ben. Great Ben, horrid one. Roethlisberger simultaneously ruined the game and saved it. That's how it goes.
"We don't care how it looks," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said of the team's ugly victory. "We just want to get out of stadiums with wins, particularly road stadiums and AFC ones."
One play late was almost comical. Roethlisberger was feeling pressure low from a Colts defender and jump-hopped over the player while throwing. Since he wasn't planted, the ball skidded into the ground.
|Pittsburgh did what they usually do, which was to find a way to win. The Steelers, namely QB Ben Roethlisberger, coughed up the football twice. But Big Ben was also outstanding in guiding Pittsburgh on the game-winning drive. The Steelers forced their first turnover of the season and it came at an opportune time in the game.|
|Indianapolis came as close as they have all season in coming up with a victory. The offense sputtered at times, but also came up with some big plays in the second half to tie the game. The Colts defense played well against the run but had lapses in pass coverage. Kick coverage issues remain.|
|By Tom James|
And yet, with the score tied at 20 and some two minutes left, Roethlisberger's final drive -- full of grace and coolness -- won it for Pittsburgh. He took the Steelers 60 yards in 10 plays for the Shaun Suisham 38-yard field goal. On that drive, Roethlisberger was 3 of 4 for 39 yards and had an 11-yard scramble. It was vintage Ben. Good Ben, that is.
What saved the Steelers were A) Collins B) Painter and C) that Steelers defense. And, yes, Roethlisberger.
Collins and Painter fought hard and deserve credit for hanging against one of the best defenses in football. Collins tried and the effort was there, but the zip on his passes is gone -- and if it's possible, his foot speed is even slower. But again, he tries. Painter led the 80-yard drive that tied the score at 20 late in the game. Like Collins, he deserves a pat on the back, but Painter just isn't very good.
The two combined for 18 completions in 40 attempts for 153 yards and no touchdowns and a passer rating of 55.5.
The Steelers defense was good enough in key spots. One instance in particular was typical Pittsburgh. James Harrison stripped Painter of the football and it took a neat bounce right into the hands of Troy Polamalu, who returned it 16 yards for a touchdown. It was 20-13 at that point and it looked like Indianapolis was dead until Painter's drive.
The Colts are 0-3 for the first time since 1998. "It's very unfortunate to be 0-3," Dwight Freeney said. Yes, it is, and while the Colts won't likely go 0-16, this is still going to be a long season for Indianapolis. It's highly unlikely we'll see Manning return this year, because it won't be worth it for him to risk doing so.
Meanwhile the Steelers will be good, if not great, as they usually are. They'll also be dealing with the many faces of Roethlisberger. As they usually do.