QB A Silver Lining For Steelers

At least Ben Roethlisberger is back and producing for a team that's very much alive for a playoff berth in the AFC after yet another loss.

PITTSBURGH – Beat a 9-2 team on the road with your backup quarterback.

Get blown out at home by a 4-8 team with your starting quarterback. Such is the roller coaster ride of the 2012 Steelers, who lost Sunday at Heinz Field to the San Diego Chargers, 34-24, in Ben Roethlisberger's return to the lineup.

It's too difficult to figure out the psychology of a team that clearly can't stay on an even keel, but with three games left the Steelers remain in the thick of the playoff race.

So the silver lining out of the loss to the Chargers is that Roethlisberger appears to be of sound mind and body for the homestretch.

Not that the silver lining blinded anyone in the locker room following the loss.

"Yeah," Brett Keisel said with a sigh. "It's good to have Ben back out there. He's a great leader for us."

And then the positive thought faded on the Steelers' defensive captain.

"Those of us that have been around here," Keisel added, "we've got to grab this team and pick it up and get it ready to finish strong."

That's possible, of course, with Roethlisberger, who got off to a slow start in his return from a three-and-a-half game absence. He completed 9 of 20 passes for 105 yards in the first half, but facing a 27-3 deficit in the second half began to heat up. In the second half, Roethlisberger looked like the Roethlisberger of old in completing 13 of 22 passes for 180 yards and 3 touchdowns.

He did throw an interception early in the fourth quarter that led to another Chargers touchdown, so Roethlisberger wasn't about to take any bows for his late-game statistics.

"We felt we left a lot of plays out there," he said. "I missed a lot of throws, threw to them once. We all have to play better."

One of the plays the Steelers left out there was an early bomb dropped by Mike Wallace, who was booed by the home crowd. Roethlisberger stuck up for his struggling teammate.

"No one should ever get booed," Roethlisberger said. "We're out there busting our butt. No one intentionally does anything to hurt the team. I don't intentionally throw interceptions and guys don't miss blocks and fumble. We don't intentionally do it. I just told him I'm going to come back to him, ‘keep your head up,' and he made plays for us late."

Wallace did catch 40 and 11-yard touchdown passes and Antonio Brown caught a 1-yard touchdown pass from Roethlisberger, who also received some help from Plaxico Burress, who snared an 18-yard pass on an early third-and-12, but who was thrown only one other pass (incomplete) the remainder of the game.

Why wasn't Burress on the field more often?

"Coaches," Roethlisberger muttered initially before asking the reporter, "Did you ask coach that?

"I don't know. It was a good play. It was good to get him back in there and hear the crowd cheer for him."

The same could be said for Roethlisberger, who showed little caution for his injured shoulder/chest as evidenced by his 31 yards rushing, one yard off the team lead for the game.

"I wasn't going to hold back," Roethlisberger said. "We knew they were a good defense. They like to get after the quarterback. I was prepared to do it if I had to, and I wasn't going to have any reservations in doing it.

"Right now I feel OK," he added. "I'll let you know tomorrow if I'm not doing very good. But all around we just have to play better."

Few doubt that they will.

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