Pittsburgh Steelers: 2013 Week 10 BUF at PIT

Big Ben, Steelers make angry stand

November, 10, 2013
RoethlisbergerMark Konezny/USA TODAY SportsBen Roethlisberger insists he'll be a Steeler past this season, despite a report to the contrary.

PITTSBURGH -- He wore a No. 7 jersey and watched quizzically from the arms of a Pittsburgh Steelers staffer as his father addressed a semi-circle of reporters near the front of the home locker room.

Ben Roethlisberger Jr. either received as strong an assurance as possible that he will long call the Pittsburgh area home. Or he witnessed an acting job worthy of an Oscar nomination, courtesy of his old man.

The elder Ben Roethlisberger turned in a workmanlike performance in the Steelers’ 23-10 win against the hapless Buffalo Bills at Heinz Field on Sunday.

He later allowed himself to look ahead only so he could angrily deny an NFL Network report he took personally because of its most titillating claim: that Roethlisberger might want out of Pittsburgh after this season because he is so unhappy with the direction of a franchise that has won a record six Lombardi Trophies.

“It’s one of the most B.S. stories I’ve ever heard,” Roethlisberger said after throwing for 204 yards and a touchdown against the Bills. “When it comes to wanting to go somewhere else, that’s completely unacceptable.”

So is what the Steelers’ season had devolved into following a 55-31 unmasking last Sunday in New England. The 3-6 Steelers did not restore hope after beating the Bills on Sunday in a game that was as drab as a gray, cold day, as much as they stanched the latest round of bleeding.

The reality is the Steelers are almost certainly going to miss the playoffs for the second season in a row. That and the fact that Roethlisberger isn’t getting any younger -- and continues to take a beating behind a patchwork offensive line -- led to a report that appears to have added two and two and gotten five.

Forget the layers of denials, and that Roethlisberger’s agent unequivocally discredited the report even before talking to his client about how to handle it.

Roethlisberger has always said he wants to play for the Steelers his entire career. And his roots here extend now beyond leading the Steelers back to Super Bowl glory.

Roethlisberger’s wife, Ashley, is from New Castle, which is about an hour north of Pittsburgh. The couple’s first child was born here, and they are expecting another child.

Do you really think Roethlisberger wants to uproot his growing family just so he can link up with his good buddy and former Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians in Arizona?

A lot of tough decisions loom for the Steelers this offseason, and they will almost certainly have to hire their second offensive coordinator since sending Arians into what the team framed as retirement at the end of the 2011 season.

It is simply not working out between Roethlisberger and Todd Haley -- the two still have a frayed relationship, according to a source, despite their appearance of working better together this season -- and guess which one is more expendable?

The offense continues to labor under Haley, and it managed just two touchdowns against the Bills despite a balanced attack and short fields provided by an Antonio Brown punt return and a Ryan Clark interception.

The Steelers, however, so thoroughly dominated the Bills that they extended for at least another week hope that a season that started 0-for-September can still be salvaged.

Not that the Steelers players dared go there after the get-well win.

“It was one step in the right direction,” Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel said. “If we play like this we can be tough.”

The Steelers agave those fans who braved the biting air and whipping winds what coach Mike Tomlin called an “appropriate” response following the Steelers’ loss at New England.

They looked like the Steelers of old as opposed to the old Steelers in dominating both lines of scrimmage, toying with a rookie quarterback and taking control of the game with touchdowns that bridged the second and third quarters.

They played angry, none moreso than Lawrence Timmons, who had eight tackles and a teeth-rattling sack of EJ Manuel.

The caveat is that the Bills are even worse in the win-loss column than the Steelers, and that Pittsburgh has now beaten Joe Flacco and two rookie quarterbacks this season.

That is why when Roethlisberger was asked if the Steelers remain relevant relative to the playoff picture he said, “It’s way too early to tell.”

It’s apparently not too early for Roethlisberger to foresee how the rest of his career plays out, and the 10th-year veteran and the Steelers publicly pledged their allegiance to one another.

“I’m not quitting on anything, this season, this team, these fans,” Roethlisberger said. “I’m going to give it everything I have. This is home.”

This is also the place where he won his 90th-regular season game on Sunday -- and where Roethlisberger still represents the best hope of winning, even with so much uncertainty swirling around the Steelers.

"I've always wanted to be a Steeler for life," he said.

The reiteration of that desire trumped the other big news of the day: that the Steelers aren't dead.


Rapid Reaction: Pittsburgh Steelers

November, 10, 2013
PITTSBURGH -- A few observations from the Pittsburgh Steelers' 23-10 victory against the Buffalo Bills at Heinz Field:

What it means: The Steelers kept their season from spiraling out of control by beating up on the Bills in a stadium that had more than a few empty seats. As cathartic as the victory proved to be a week after the Steelers were humiliated in New England, there isn’t anything to suggest it is anything more than a Band-Aid. The Bills (3-7) were awful, and the Steelers (3-6) need to string at least three victories together before there can be any talk of them as plausible playoff contenders, as mediocre as the AFC North and the conference is.

Stock watch: Yes, the Steelers weren’t exactly facing Jim Kelly and the K-Gun offense, but the defense needed to play well in the worst way, and it did for the most part during a cold, drab day at Heinz Field. The Steelers used a familiar formula -- stopping the run and not letting a young quarterback beat them -- a week after arguably the worst defensive performance in franchise history. C.J. Spiller never got out of neutral, and the Bills were just 3-of-14 on third-down conversions. The Steelers improved to 17-2 against rookie quarterbacks since 2004, the year Dick LeBeau returned for a second stint as the team’s defensive coordinator.

Walking wounded: It wouldn’t be a Steelers game without an injury sustained by at least one of the offensive linemen. Left guard Ramon Foster left the game with an ankle injury early in the third quarter and did not return to the game. Starting outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley (calf) and reserve safety Shamarko Thomas (ankle) also left the game with injuries.

Hardly a clinic: Somewhere Drew Butler is laughing. Zoltan Mesko, too. The punters ushered out of Pittsburgh by coach Mike Tomlin probably couldn’t have done worse than Mat McBriar in his first two games with the Steelers. McBriar, signed after Pittsburgh waived Mesko two weeks ago, had punts of 27 and 36 yards in the first quarter and was a major reason the Steelers were unable to flip the field.

No regrets: The Steelers were reminded that it could be worse when it comes to their punting situation. Brian Moorman couldn’t beat out Butler in training camp -- Butler was later dumped for Mesko -- and he didn’t do much of anything for Buffalo against the Steelers. Moorman nearly kicked a ball into the stands when the Bills were hoping they could down a punt deep inside Steelers territory. He later kicked a low line drive that Antonio Brown returned 24 yards and led a 4-yard touchdown run by Le'Veon Bell.

Next up: The Steelers and their defense face what should be a considerably sterner test next Sunday when the Detroit Lions visit Heinz Feld for a 1 p.m. ET game. Matthew Stafford is the kind of passer who can carve up the Steelers’ secondary if he gets time in the pocket. Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson, meanwhile, is a bigger matchup problem than polka dots and stripes.