Pain Meant Gain

Ben Roethlisberger endured quite a bit of pain to win the AFC Offensive Player of the Week award.

PITTSBURGH – Ben Roethlisberger may have felt better Monday than he did the previous Monday, but he was certainly in a great deal of pain during Sunday's game.

Perhaps pain means gain for Roethlisberger, who was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week for his 5-touchdown performance in a 38-17 win over the Tennessee Titans.

Roethlisberger completed 24 of 34 passes for 228 yards. He was sacked only once, and threw one bad interception, but finished with a passer rating of 116.2, his best of the season and best since the 2010 regular-season finale at Cleveland (141.3).

It was the 46th game in which Roethlisberger's passer rating exceeded 100, counting the postseason. The Steelers are 43-3 in those games.

Not that Roethlisberger's satisfied.

"I feel like I left some things out there," he said. "You always want to try to be better. You never want to be satisfied with where you're at."

But this is where he was at Sunday: Roethlisberger was a stationary target in the pocket because of a sprained foot that required a special shoe that was bigger and fortified, a shoe he'll continue to wear for at least another week.

And it wasn't comfortable by any means.

"When it's your feet it's hard because you're always on them, so it's every single play," Roethlisberger said. "It's not like it's a left wrist or a left shoulder where you hurt it when you get hit."

So, where did the game rank on the career pain-o-meter?

"It was up there," he said. "But you find a way to manage it."

Roethlisberger managed it by taking not only what the defense gave him, but what his offensive line gave him. He was barely pressured, sacked only one time, and, he believes, hit only one time.

The quarterback who's been sacked 319 times in 117 career games did it by grabbing shotgun snaps, taking short drops, and letting the ball fly quickly. His average yards per attempt (6.7) was the lowest of the season, but of course the Steelers' point production was the largest.

Roethlisberger said the performance was more a product of the Titans' defense that it was any kind of plan to get him and the offense throwing with more rhythm.

"They sat in a lot of zone coverages and left the underneath stuff open," Roethlisberger said. "I know all you guys think that you called it and it was ‘a breakthrough performance,' because you guys wanted me to get the ball out of my hand faster. But, really, it was what they gave us, and we took advantage of it."

The running game helped. Even with Rashard Mendenhall out with a hamstring injury, the Steelers enjoyed their largest rushing output of the season. Their 174 yards rushing exceeded the previous best, the Seattle game, by 50 yards.

It just might have been a breakthrough game all the way around.

"I hope so," Roethlisberger said. "I hope it's something we can look at and say, ‘Wow, we can put up 30-some points a game.' But I hope that it's also a thing that we look at and say we can play better."

NOTES – Mendenhall returned to practice. Out were RT Marcus Gilbert (shoulder), NT Casey Hampton (shoulder), ROLB James Harrison (eye), LG Chris Kemoeatu (knee), RB Mewelde Moore (ankle), LDE Aaron Smith (foot), WR Hines Ward (no injury), and OLB Jason Worilds (quadriceps). Participating on a limited basis were CB Cortez Allen (ankle) and FS Ryan Clark (quadriceps).

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