Mike Prisuta's Fourth & Goal:

The evolution/transformation of Ben Roethlisberger was on display again in Denver. It's about resiliency as much as ...

... accuracy. It's about the mental toughness that separates the truly great ones from those who are merely physically gifted and/or astute students of the game. It's about the confidence to bounce back, even when the ball ends up in the wrong end zone.

That happened in the third quarter against the Broncos. A sack/fumble/TD gave Denver a 10-7 lead. Roethlisberger's immediate response was to engineer a four-play, 80-yard drive on which he went 3-for-3 passing for 53 yards, including a 3-yard TD to Hines Ward.

When things such as the offense surrendering TDs happen these days, when it appears as if either Big Ben just doesn't have it on a particular day, or that particular day just isn't the Steelers' day, Roethlisberger shrugs his shoulders, digs a little deeper and keeps playing.

That's a quality OC Bruce Arians recognized in the playoff loss to Jacksonville back on Jan. 5, 2008.

Roethlisberger threw three first-half interceptions against the Jags, one of which was returned 63 yards for a TD by Rashean Mathis.

It was 21-7 Jacksonville at the break and 28-10 entering the fourth quarter.

Three TDs later, two of them airmailed, Roethlisberger jogged off the field with 6:21 remaining and the Steelers ahead, 29-28.

Although they ultimately lost on a last-second field goal, Arians knew Roethlisberger had turned a corner.

"To overcome that shaky performance and have a fourth quarter like that, only the great ones do that," Arians said. "To me, that's when it happened."

Roethlisberger had apparently aspired to find such a quality within for some time. He'd admittedly admired it in others. Consider his response during Peter King's quarterback summit, published in i>Sports Illustrated's NFL preview, when asked about toughness:

"Toughness is playing the worst game of your life but not backing down," Roethlisberger said. "You don't want to sit on the sideline. You want to stay in there and win. You know, down 21 points and the defense is getting through in every single way, and you throw three interceptions.

"Staying in that game, keeping your head up, trying to drive your team down the field when everything's going wrong -- that's the kind of toughness I want in my quarterback."

Roethlisberger found that against Jacksonville.

It wasn't as apparent early on the following season, as Roethlisberger and the offense battled injury and inconsistency. But after they came back to beat the Jaguars, and then rallied again late against the Chargers, Cowboys and Ravens, the Steelers' resolve was showing, Roethlisberger's in particular.

It was obvious in Super Bowl XLIII, when things had gone wrong enough that the Steelers trailed with less than three minutes left and Roethlisberger and the offense found a way, anyway.

Roethlisberger said last week that he hadn't given much thought to that Jacksonville game because the Steelers had lost, but upon doing so acknowledged "that was a big one for me I think, yeah."

He's been a different guy since then. And the Steelers have been a different team.


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