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Published: Sunday, 12/19/2004

Roethlisberger pulls out all stops in win

BY GERRY DULAC
BLOCK NEWS ALLIANCE
To show the Steelers don't move solely on the ground, QB Ben Roethlisberger completed 18 of 28 passes for 316 yards. To show the Steelers don't move solely on the ground, QB Ben Roethlisberger completed 18 of 28 passes for 316 yards.
BILL KOSTROUN / AP Enlarge

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - To be sure, it was nice for Ben Roethlisberger to have his first 300-yard game of the season on national television, in the media capital of the country, on the same field where Eli Manning was finally performing like a quarterback befitting his surname.

And it was especially significant for the rookie quarterback to lead his second comeback victory in three games and keep alive the NFL's longest winning streak.

But, to offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, it was also important for Roethlisberger to show the rest of the league he can throw the ball just as productively as the Steelers run the ball.

"For him to throw it as many times as he threw it, and have the success he had throwing it, it was good to see that," Whisenhunt said, standing in the locker room after the Steelers came back in the fourth quarter to defeat the New York Giants, 33-30. "It's good to see that we had it. It's also good for other defenses to see that."

On a day when Jerome Bettis carried a season-high 36 times for 140 yards, the Steelers dusted off their passing game and turned Roethlisberger into a mad-bombing quarterback reminiscent of the Tommy-gun attack they employed when Tommy Maddox was the starter.

Roethlisberger attempted a season-high 28 passes, completing 18, for 316 yards and a TD. And, as he did two weeks ago on a Sunday night in Jacksonville, he orchestrated the winning TD drive by completing four consecutive passes for 59 yards to set up Bettis' one-yard touchdown run with 4:57 remaining.

The biggest pass was a 36-yarder to receiver Antwaan Randle El that moved the ball to the Giants 8 - one of four receptions of 34 yards or longer for Randle El.

"There's been a question about Ben being able to throw the ball," Whisenhunt said. "People said we haven't had to throw much, but he showed today he can do that."

And Roethlisberger showed the Giants why he is the only quarterback in NFL history to win his first 12 starts by calmly moving the Steelers 67 yards in seven plays for the winning score after the Giants took a 30-26 lead with 8:15 remaining.

"Our defense has carried us all year," Roethlisberger said. "I said to our offense that it is time to carry the load a little bit.''

It was the third time this season Roethlisberger has rallied the Steelers to victory in the fourth quarter. He brought them back from a 20-10 deficit with two touchdowns in the final 12 minutes to beat Dallas, 24-20. And he led a six-play, 56-yard drive with no timesout remaining that led to Jeff Reed's winning field goal with 18 seconds remaining in Jacksonville.

Roethlisberger also directed a 61-yard, seven-play drive that resulted in a seven-yard touchdown pass to Hines Ward with 6:16 remaining to beat Miami, 13-3, in his first professional start.

"He just goes out there and keeps doing it," said guard Alan Faneca. "Nothing fazes him."

"He doesn't get rattled," Bettis said. "As a young quarterback, usually that affects you, and it doesn't affect him at all. They threw a lot at us, but we still found a way to get the football down the field. Ben made some big throws because, early on, they didn't want the running game to beat them."

Whisenhunt has been trying to throw more, particularly on first down, because teams are stacking to stop the Steelers' running game.

Still, Roethlisberger never threw more than 25 times in his previous 11 starts because the Steelers have never trailed by more than 10 points (against Dallas) during their winning streak. As a result, the Steelers passing game has ranked near the bottom of the league - it was 27th coming into yesterday - because the ranking is based on total yards.

The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Gerry Dulac is a reporter for the Post-Gazette.



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