Getting Scary

It's been one scary week for Steelers fans who don't want to hear about trading Ben Roethlisberger. Today, it's something else.

The Steelers admitted throughout the week that no offensive player in the league scares them more than Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson.

And it's becoming obvious by the trail of receipts to the NFL's fines office that Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh is another scary monster in his own right.

But perhaps the scariest proposition for Steelers fans throughout this past week has been the thought of trading Ben Roethlisberger, deemed the golden child in Pittsburgh ever since he stepped into the starting lineup in Miami to lead the Steelers past the Dolphins, and a hurricane, in that magical rookie season of 2004.

Two Super Bowl wins, another Super Bowl appearance, 90 regular-season wins, 10 playoff wins, and 30 fourth-quarter rallies later and the Steelers are sitting at 3-6.

And, thus, the trade rumors.

Last Sunday, NFL Network reported that Roethlisberger isn't happy with the Steelers, who will in turn attempt to trade him in the off-season.

The report was debunked by both sides, but that hasn't stopped the rumor from lasting the week. And on then the same outlet reported that teammates are critical of Roethlisberger's work ethic.

Here's how Roethlisberger responded on WDVE:

"I would love to find out what these sources are. If a player, coach or front-office person has an issue or wants to talk to me about how I can be a better teammate then come tell me.

"When someone is a source and unnamed, they have an agenda. Their agenda is not winning football games and helping this team win. My agenda is trying to win football games."

That's the problem, the Steelers aren't winning football games. And no matter who's denying what, that's the overriding factor because those Super Bowls, playoff wins and fourth-quarter comebacks have become a thing of the past, and a trade -- even if no one on either side can envision it today -- could occur just because the timing would be right.

Roethlisberger, at 32 and with two years remaining on his contract next spring, will provide better value to both sides of any deal than he will at probably any other point in the future.

That's if he survives scary monsters such as Suh, the rampaging defensive tackle for the Lions who'll line up Sunday across from either Guy Whimper or a hurting Ramon Foster on a patchwork offensive interior that hasn't really been tested by the likes of Suh and his partner Nick Fairley.

"That's kind of what makes their engine go," said Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley. "Those guys, especially the two inside guys, no disrespect to anybody else, [Ndamukong Suh] and [Nick Fairley], they bring it. They bring it every play. They're disruptive and they can ruin your day if you let them. They're first and foremost in our thoughts."

They can ruin your day, or your quarterback, or your trade talks.

"Try not to upset him," Roethlisberger said of his game plan for Suh.

Yet, with that kind of talent inside, the Lions have only 15 sacks -- or one fewer than the Steelers. While teams do have difficulty maintaining a consistent ground game against the Lions, they rank 27th against the pass.

If Roethlisberger can avoid the monsters in the middle, the Lions' secondary would appear to be fertile ground. But Haley isn't so sure.

"I think teams get behind the eight ball a little bit and end up having to throw it to try to score points," he explained. "Like any other week, if we can come out and be fairly balanced, I think that will always be an advantage to us, but at the same time we've got to score points. They're not a team that you're going to expect to go out and score seven, 10, 13 points. They're a prolific offense with some big-time players and playing at a high level. So, we've got to do what we have to to get the ball in the end zone."

Stopping the 6-3 Lions would seem to mean stopping Johnson, the 6-5, 239-pounder who ran a 4.35 40 and vertically jumped 42 1/2 inches at the 2007 combine.

Johnson came into this season averaging 81 catches for 1,306 yards and 9 touchdown catches. With his 53-904-9 numbers right now, he's on pace for 94 catches, 1,607 yards and 16 touchdowns. So Johnson is a freak in his prime.

"I don't think there's any question about that. He's as good as you get," said Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. "He has everything: size, speed and he is great at getting the ball. He has a good quarterback to get him the ball. He's a challenge."

LeBeau, the Hall of Fame former Lions cornerback, was asked how he would have played Johnson back in his playing days.

"I would have asked for cover-two and rolled up on him, let the safety have him over the top," LeBeau said.

And now?

"Get the quarterback on the ground before he can throw it. That works pretty well against all passes."

Not many have been able to get Matthew Stafford on the ground, though.

Another former top-of-the-draft pick, Stafford, in his fifth season, is also rolling into his prime years, and he's getting rid of the ball. He's been sacked only 10 times in nine games.

With a career 82.8 passer rating, Stafford's passer rating this season is 94.1.

"Actually, he takes some chances with the ball," LeBeau said. "Again, with that height advantage he has sprinkled all around the field, he trusts those guys. He will throw the ball, really, a lot of times when he can't see anything but the opposing rush. That's why his sack numbers are down. He's very good with rhythm passing. He gets the ball out. He's not a rookie, either, but he will take some chances with the ball. Hopefully we can make him pay for some of those.

If those Detroit monsters aren't scary enough, the Steelers must also defend against Reggie Bush, the No. 2 pick of the 2006 draft who at 28 is having his best season. Bush averages 4.7 per carry and 10.1 per catch and is on pace for 1,717 yards of total offense, which would smash his personal best by 335 yards. Just another monster in the arsenal.

"I don't think there is any doubt," LeBeau said. "And their tight end is about 6-8 and they have a wide receiver that is 6-6. This is a big bunch. It's a special group in that aspect."

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