PITTSBURGH – Ben Roethlisberger had some big saves during his career – including a famous one at Indianapolis in the 2005 playoffs that helped continue the Pittsburgh Steelers’ run to the Super Bowl that year.
So perhaps it’s fitting that his first career win in a relief appearance came on a day in which the Steelers were honoring the 10th anniversary of that 2005 team.
Channeling his inner Willis Reed, Roethlisberger came off the bench to throw for 379 yards – the most in NFL history for a QB who did not start – and three scores.
So much for the foot injury he suffered in last week’s win over Oakland.
“He perked up at the latter part of the week,” Mike Tomlin said of Roethlisberger, who was listed as questionable for the game.
“He spent the vast majority of the week rehabilitating. He had little to no in-helmet preparation in terms of what the game plan was. We gave the start to Landry because he did.”
But when Jones had his ankle stepped on by right tackle Marcus Gilbert on a pass into the end zone on Pittsburgh’s second possession, it was time for Reed, er, Roethlisberger to limp onto the field.
Actually, Roethlisberger, who was wearing a special shoe on his left foot, wasn’t limping at all. And with Cleveland intent on stopping running back DeAngelo Williams, Roethlisberger went to work against a secondary missing Pro Bowl corner Joe Haden and strong safety Donte Whitner, arguably its two best players.
“We saw some good matchups,” said Roethlisberger, who worked primarily out of the shotgun and in a no-huddle offense because he hadn’t worked on the game plan.
Basically, those matchups were anybody against Antonio Brown or Martavis Bryant, both of whom looked like Usain Bolt running through the Cleveland secondary.
Brown, coming off a 17-catch performance against the Raiders, had 10 catches for 139 yards and two scores, while Bryant shook off an early fumble at the end of a 64-yard completion to catch six passes for 178 yards and a touchdown.
And so Roethlisberger, whose only other relief appearance came in his first NFL game at Baltimore back in 2004, earned another save and helped Jones get his first career win.
“He’s a great player. When you’re able to overcome stuff like that, it just adds to what he’s done throughout his whole career,” said Jones, who noted that Roethlisberger did not allow his big moment to go unnoticed.
“That’s what he said on the sidelines, ‘Congratulations on your first win as a starter.’”
@ I thought Cleveland’s Mike Pettine was a pretty good NFL head coach until I saw this quote from him after the game.
When asked if the Browns made any defensive adjustments to Roethlisberger coming into the game, Pettine replied, “No, because I don’t know that their game plan would have been that much different if it had been Landry Jones the whole game. I don’t think it affected us from a schematic standpoint.”
There’s no difference between a Super Bowl-winning, Pro Bowl quarterback who led the NFL in pasing yards in 2014 and a guy making his second career start?
Let Cleveland’s next coaching search begin.
@ With Oakland and Buffalo both winning this week, the Steelers are sitting in a good position heading into their bye at 6-4.
If the playoffs started now, they would be the AFC’s top wildcard and headed off to play whatever bad team happens to win the AFC South.
Then, they would play the Patriots. But as we saw in the opener – even if we didn’t realize it at the time – the Steelers have played New England as tough as anyone this season at Foxborough.
@ How about Jarvis Jones getting some pressure on Johnny Manziel while working against Joe Thomas?
Ryan Shazier also had an active day, making six tackles, a sack and a tackle for a loss.
Steelers fans like to throw the bust word around a lot. Those two are playing. They’re not busts.
You want a bust? How about Cleveland’s Barkevious Mingo? He didn’t have a tackle in this game and only made his presence known when he was flagged for roughing Roethlisberger when he hit him in the face as he was pushed on by.
If that’s not good enough for you, how about corner Justin Gilbert, Cleveland’s first-round pick last year?
He’s been so bad, he was a healthy scratch Sunday. And you saw what Cleveland has at cornerback.
Those two guys were top-10 picks.
@ Landry Jones came back on the sideline late in the first half and could have gone back into the game, if needed.
“I could have, but at that point, Ben was out there doing his thing,” the laid-back Jones said.
That left tight end Heath Miller, a high school quarterback, as the Steelers’ backup for a while.
How prepared was the emergency QB?
“Not really,” Miller said with a laugh. “It would have been a very small package, run right, run left.”