Inside the Steelers Camp

The Pittsburgh Steelers have struggled this season, but the Denver Broncos know they can't take anything for granted. Check out all the latest on this week's opponent - Inside the Steelers Camp.

It's shaping up as just one of those years for the defending Super Bowl champions. The quarterback, who became Pittsburgh's darling in his first two seasons, has been battered and bruised both on the field and off.

A June 12 motorcycle accident was followed by a September 3 appendectomy that was followed by an October 22 concussion that has left Ben Roethlisberger playing so inconsistently that it has left his coach and teammates shaking their heads.

He missed the first game after his surgery and over the next three games -- all losses -- he threw seven interceptions and no touchdowns. He followed that with seven touchdown tosses and no interceptions over his next two games, but was knocked out of the last one in the third quarter with a concussion.

There was great public debate in Pittsburgh and across the NFL landscape whether coach Bill Cowher should play quarterback Ben Roethlisberger or rest him at least one game after his head injury. Doctors, though, cleared the quarterback to play and he told Cowher he wanted to play.

The coach let him play and he responded by throwing a career-high four interceptions in Oakland. Two were returned for the Raiders' only touchdowns and the Steelers lost yet another game in which they dominated -- 360 yards to Oakland's 98.

"I can't tell you why he threw certain balls," said veteran receiver Hines Ward. "You'll have to ask Ben on that."

Cowher called it "the decision-making."

"That's all I can say. We gave up two interceptions for touchdowns, you're not going to overcome that."

Roethlisberger already has thrown 11 interceptions, equaling his career high for a season, set in 2005. His record as a starter is 1-5 this season, surpassing the total number of losses in his first two seasons and postseasons combined (27-4).

"I'm embarrassed by the way I played," Roethlisberger said after Sunday's loss in Oakland.

He was inconsistent in his first three games of the season, then put together consecutive games the likes of which the NFL has not often seen from a quarterback. In the two games previous to his Oakland debacle, Roethlisberger had a passer rating of 154.6. That's the fourth-best passer rating in two consecutive games by any quarterback since the 1970 NFL merger.

He was on a roll before his concussion. Perhaps he should not have played so soon.

"He practiced, he got all the reps," Ward said. "He looked fine. There shouldn't be any excuses, He was strong enough to play during the week. He looked good in practice, so why wouldn't he start?"

NOTES, QUOTES
--WR Santonio Holmes thought he was hit early by linebacker Kirk Morrison in the end zone on Ben Roethlisberger's fourth-down pass, a potential game-tying score, with 1:38 left that fell incomplete.

"The ref didn't make a call and you have to live with it," said Holmes. "We had plenty of opportunities before that too to get in the end zone. One call really doesn't determine a game."

--The Steelers' 83 combined points in their previous two games (vs. Kansas City and Atlanta) were the most they've scored in successive games in 40 seasons.

They scored 104 points in consecutive games in 1966 when they beat the New York Giants 47-28 and followed with a 57-33 victory at Atlanta to close out the season.

--Jeff Reed's two field goals against the Raiders give him an even 100. He's one of four Steelers kickers to make at least 100.

--WR Hines Ward: "Last year, all the balls were bouncing our way. This year we're not getting the same bounces."

PLAYER NOTES
--RB Duce Staley is about to come out of enforced retirement. Staley likely will begin dressing for games now that third-down back Verron Haynes is lost for the season with a knee injury.

--LB Joey Porter returned to start after missing two games with a hamstring injury, and he intercepted a pass to give him two this season.

--WR Cedrick Wilson is still looking for his first touchdown catch in the regular season since he signed with the Steelers in free agency in 2005.

--G Kendall Simmons has lost his starting job to second-year man Chris Kemoeatu. Simmons, although healthy, did not play in Oakland.

--RB Willie Parker scored his sixth touchdown of the season, but his first receiving score, when he took a screen pass 25 yards all the way. It was only his second career receiving TD.

REPORT CARD VS. RAIDERS

PASSING OFFENSE: F -- Even though Ben Roethlisberger threw for 301 yards and a touchdown, his four interceptions cost the Steelers a victory. Two were returned for touchdowns. He also was sacked five times and could not put them in the end zone at the end when they had first down at the one, his last pass falling incomplete.

RUSHING OFFENSE: D -- Against the No. 26 rush defense in the NFL, the Steelers managed only 89 yards and a 3.2-yard average. Willie Parker had 83 yards on 22 carries, 39 of them on one run. Also, when they had first down on the Raiders' one with three minutes left and trailing by seven, the Steelers lost four yards on two consecutive runs.

PASS DEFENSE: A -- Andrew Walter completed just 5 of 14 passes for 51 yards. He was intercepted once and sacked six times. It may go down as one of the most pathetic modern-day performances in a victory.

RUSH DEFENSE A -- Oakland, with the 10th-ranked running offense, could get just 81 yards on 29 carries with a long run of 9 yards. They scored no touchdown on the ground.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- Another 50-yard kickoff return, this one by the Raiders' Chris Carr, helped set up a score for Oakland. Najeh Davfenport's 25-yard return of a short kickoff in the fourth quarter did create the opportunity for the Steelers to score their first touchdown. Jeff Reed made both of his field goal tries.

COACHING: C-minus -- Coach Bill Cowher lost another challenge on a play that never should have been challenged. They gave up on their ground game way too soon against the No. 26 rush defense in the NFL and on a day in which Ben Roethlisberger obviously was not making good decisions.



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