Back to basics for Big Ben, Steelers
PITTSBURGH – So much for that banged-up O-line.
A week earlier in Houston, you had Big Ben under siege and perhaps a season on the brink.
Nothing like a change of scenery and thousands of pink towel-waving partisans to turn the tide.
The Steelers put one on Tennessee here Sunday and in the process silenced many of their harshest critics in a command performance.
The old-school Black & Gold rumbled for 176 rushing yards and limited their quarterback to one sack. Executing a predominantly short passing game with impressive precision, Roethlisberger riddled the Titans for five touchdowns in a game that was over by halftime.
Tennessee made second-year running back Jonathan Dwyer resemble a seasoned all-pro while starter Isaac Redman inflicted additional punishment.
“No more of this up-and-down stuff,” Redman reasoned in the postgame lockerroom. “We can’t be playing .500 football. It’s time for us to get on a roll.”
Considering they play three of their next four at Heinz Field, chances would appear good, although the division-leading Patriots and Ravens invade Oct. 30 and Nov. 6, respectively.
Sunday’s game ball was presented to the mighty Max, offensive tackle Max Starks who resigned last week and injected noticeable energy on the practice field.
“(We) couldn’t believe how good of shape he was in,” grinned Hines Ward, speaking of the 6-8, 345-pound Starks. “Seeing Max back in the lockerroom really pumped some guys up.”
So much so, Dwyer (107) and Redman (49) zeroed-in on continual running lanes.
“All I know is they made my job much easier,” offered Dwyer whose first carry of the day went for a stunning 76 yards. “I went for 88 one time in college (Ga. Tech),” said Dwyer whose effort to go the distance (90 yards) came up short. “I didn’t have NFL guys chasing me back then.”
Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians made his presence felt as well, alerting punter Daniel Sepulveda to fake a fourth down punt at midfield.
Sepulveda fired a strike to wide-open Ryan Mundy. The former WVU Mountaineer turned it into a 33-yard gainer. Two snaps later, Roethlisberger and Ward hooked up from seven yards out and it was 14-3.
“After Houston, I thought today was an appropriate response,” declared Mike Tomlin. “A good solid day all-around but now it’s over and we move on.”
On the surface, this weekend’s assignment vs. 1-4 Jacksonville appears inviting. “If I’ve learned one thing (in 14 seasons), it’s that no two Sundays are ever alike in this league,” Ward stressed. “You have to come out and play with the same intensity regardless of opponent, or very likely, you’ll pay the price.”
STEELERS’ rookie defensive end Cam Heyward of Ohio State, forced a fumble and recorded a sack of Tennessee’s Matt Hasselbeck.
“Whatever playing time I get, I’m just trying to take advantage,” Heyward noted. “I’m part of an outstanding organization here, I do know that….”
HEYWARD admitted disappointment regarding the Buckeyes’ Saturday night loss at Nebraska. “Obviously, there’s been a lot of changes,” he remarked. “I hope (the fans) have patience because that’s what it’s going to take….”
THAT flight back to Columbus could not have been a pleasant experience. Just when it appeared quarterback Braxton Miller was en route to a breakout performance, the true freshman sustained a game-ending third quarter injury.
To that point, Miller has rushed 10 times for 91 yards and completed a 32-yard scoring pass to tight end Jake Stoneburner. The arrival of fifth-year senior Joe Bauserman didn’t exactly serve to rally the troops.
While a majority of Bauserman’s passes failed to find the mark, OSU’s defense was in the process of imploding as the Scarlet & Gray coughed up a 27-6 advantage. Once Nebraska seized momentum, the Huskers’ offense resembled a John Deere tractor, continually shredding Buckeye tacklers….
Gibson may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org