NFL: Rallies not new to No. 7
By Alan Robinson
PITTSBURGH ó Maybe it’s premature to begin comparing Ben Roethlisberger to John Elway, even if the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback wears No. 7 in honor of the former Denver Broncos star.
When it comes to comebacks, Big Ben is becoming something of a current-day version of Elway, who led 47 fourth-quarter rallies that either won or tied a game for his team.
In five NFL seasons, Roethlisberger has led 18 ó five this season, including two against Baltimore.
That could be one of the hidden factors in the Steelers’ favor as they prepare to play the Ravens in the AFC championship game Sunday at Heinz Field. Comebacks are difficult to mount against defenses as good as the No. 2-ranked Ravens, yet Roethlisberger went 2-for-2 against them this season.
“That’s just the attitude we’ve developed over the course of the year,” left tackle Max Starks said. “Being in tight games and being in those situations where you needed those game-winning drives to win those games has made us stronger and given us confidence when it comes down to the fourth quarter.
“I wouldn’t classify it as a swagger, but it’s more of a confidence in your unit and in the guys in the huddle with you.”
While going 12-4, the Steelers rallied from 10 down to beat Baltimore 23-20 in overtime, 10 down in the fourth quarter to beat Dallas 20-13, six down in the fourth to beat Baltimore 13-9, two down in the fourth to beat San Diego 11-10 and seven down to beat Jacksonville 26-21.
Roethlisberger first displayed the ability to win games when his team was down as a rookie in 2004, when the Steelers prevailed six times while behind or tied in the fourth quarter.
“We don’t like to have to do it,” Roethlisberger said. “Normally you have to do it when you are struggling early on. It comes from the heart. A lot of guys have to step up and not make mistakes and do it when it counts.”
It comes from a quarterback, too, especially one who makes his teammates believe he is capable of getting them out of any jam.
“You either like having the ball in your hands or you don’t,” Roethlisberger said. “I’m one that does.”
Of those 18 Roethlisberger-led rallies, three came against the Ravens. He nearly pulled another one off in the playoffs last season, bringing the Steelers back from a 28-10 deficit against Jacksonville to give them a 29-28 lead. They ended up losing 31-29.
“He’s a lot different from a lot of quarterbacks because he’s big and strong and he’s fearless,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “And he can throw the ball on time. He can hold the ball. He can scramble and make plays on the run. He’s probably the most accurate quarterback on the run in the league.”
All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu returned to practice Thursday after injuring a calf during the 35-24 divisional victory over San Diego. He was hurt during pregame warmups but played.
Center Justin Hartwig (knee) was limited in practice, though he expects to take part in the final full-scale practice today.
“I’ll be ready on Sunday,” he said.
The Steelers probably will be tempted to stay inside for practice today even though coach Mike Tomlin likes to go outdoors when the game is played in a cold-weather city.
The predicted high is 6, though the temperature is expected to climb into the low 20s by gametime Sunday night.