Roethlisberger: 'We're almost clicking'

PITTSBURGH – Like Chad Johnson, Ben Roethlisberger keeps a list. But it's not a list he posts inside his locker and shows off to TV cameras as Johnson does. No, Roethlisberger's list is in his head.

"I like playing San Diego because they had a pick," said Roethlisberger. "Anybody who was in the top 10, I kind of like to play against. It feels good."

Roethlisberger loves to beat the teams that didn't draft him in 2004. There were 10 of them and the only teams he hasn't beaten as a starting quarterback are Oakland, Arizona and Atlanta.

He was the 11th pick of the 2004 draft, taken by the Pittsburgh Steelers of course. He was also the third quarterback drafted, behind Eli Manning and Philip Rivers. Roethlisberger has squared off against Manning and beaten him. He's also beaten the San Diego Chargers, but not with Rivers as the quarterback. That would only sweeten the deal Sunday night.

"I know Philip a little bit. I wouldn't say we're best friends, but I know him pretty well," said Roethlisberger, who claims to not hold a grudge against Rivers, just the teams that passed him by.

The Chargers drafted Manning with the first pick and traded him to the Giants for Rivers, who'd been drafted with the fourth pick.

"We played them last year and got to beat them and that was fun but I want to keep doing it," Roethlisberger said. "I don't want to just do it once."

That may sound bold and brassy coming from the youngest quarterback to ever win a Super Bowl, but it sounds a bit shallow coming from the guy ranked 31st out of 32 NFL quarterbacks this season with a passer rating of 34.3. But Roethlisberger thinks that number, and the Steelers' 28th-ranked offense, not to mention their 1-2 record, are due for a positive change.

"As much as people may not believe this, I think we've been playing pretty well offensively," Roethlisberger said. "There've been a couple mistakes that were made that really hurt, but overall we're just about a hair off on offense.

"I think we're almost clicking. When we do start to click, and those wheels start turning together, I think we can be pretty good, pretty dangerous, but I don't think we're as far off as people think."

Hines Ward agreed. He's part of the rust factor the Steelers have endured on offense this season. Part one of the problem was Roethlisberger's motorcycle accident that cost him nearly six weeks of off-season training; part two was Ward's hamstring injury that cost him all but the first week of training camp; part three was Roethlisberger's appendectomy that cost him the first game of the regular season; and part four is the continuing hamstring woes by Ward.

Roethlisberger said a few weeks ago that he and Ward would need only one practice to regain their timing. The quarterback was asked yesterday if he'd like to reassess the statement.

"Well we've been getting there," he said. "I think Hines and I are on the same page. It's the other teams. They get paid a lot of money, too. They get paid to stop us. They're pretty good players themselves. Teams have been doing a lot to shut down Hines, doubling him, tripling him, and trying to run guys underneath where he's going to be, so give those other teams a lot of credit. But Hines is a Pro Bowler, one of the best receivers in the game. He'll find a way to get open and I'll try to get him the ball."

"We're close. There's no question," said Ward, who complained that his hamstring continues to bother him.

"My hamstring's not going to be a hundred percent this year, but it's close," he said. "It's just a matter of me just battling and fighting through it. It feels good, but it's kind of hard to get back to 100 percent when you're running all the time."

Ward shook off an injury to his other hamstring last season to catch 69 passes for 975 yards, 11 touchdowns and the MVP trophy in the Super Bowl. But his nine catches for 99 yards and a touchdown this season have him on pace for 48-528-5. Is this hamstring injury much worse than last year's?

"No. I don't know what's wrong with this one," he said. "It's not pulled, it's not strained, it's just aggravated. I still got some scar tissue in there. But I'm feeling fine. I don't feel hindered by the hamstring, it's just every now and then on certain routes that I run I may feel it."

Ward said his hamstring didn't prevent him from catching the bomb from Roethlisberger against Jacksonville that escaped his grasp by a step.

"I didn't feel it. It didn't hinder me from slowing down or anything," he said. "I felt it on the initial take-off but once I got behind the guy we were just off by a foot. Trying to get the timing down with all our guys, we're going to need that. We all got to be on the same page in this game."


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