The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Sports

November 14, 2013

Roethlisberger's focus now on Lions

PITTSBURGH — By WILL GRAVES

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

PITTSBURGH – Ben Roethlisberger is done talking about his future.

There’s too much at stake in the present to give it any thought.

The Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback reiterated Wednesday he’s done talking about a report last weekend that he will ask the Steelers to explore trade options for him in the offseason. He’s always been a Steeler. He wants to always be a Steeler. And part of that job is finding a way to beat the Detroit Lions (6-3) on Sunday.

“I am not even addressing it because it takes away from what we are trying to do and that’s win this football game,” Roethlisberger said. “That’s all that matters to me. To me to it makes me so mad I don’t even want to address it anymore.”

Roethlisberger would rather focus on his team, which finds itself at a turning point in a season that seems to be full of them. The Steelers (3-6) are two games behind AFC North leader Cincinnati (6-4) in the loss column and two games in front of conference doormat Jacksonville.

A loss on Sunday, and Pittsburgh is almost certainly out of it. Roethlisberger, who allows this season “isn’t typical” isn’t even thinking that far ahead.

“For us it is a one-game season,” Roethlisberger said. “This is the most important game of the year and we just have to come out and try to get to 1-0.”

While acknowledging he is frustrated by Pittsburgh’s worst start of his 10-year career, Roethlisberger remains all in. He stressed he wasn’t quitting after the Steelers were whipped by New England on Nov. 3 and then backed it up with steady, if not spectacular, play in a 23-10 win over Buffalo.

Roethlisberger battled back from an early interception to throw for 209 yards and a feathery 5-yard touchdown to Jerricho Cotchery that gave Pittsburgh the lead. He did it despite absorbing another four sacks behind an offensive line that hardly looks like the one the Steelers threw out in the season opener.

The reshuffled line could have its fifth different combination on Sunday if guard Ramon Foster sits out. Foster missed practice on Wednesday with a sprained ankle. Veteran Guy Whimper would fill in if Foster can’t go.

All the changes in front of him, however, haven’t exactly changed the way Roethlisberger goes about his business. He’s absorbed 35 sacks this season, the second-highest total in the league. Some of it is due to protection breakdowns. Some of it has just been great effort by the defense. And some of it is Roethlisberger’s own stubbornness. He has guided the Steelers to a pair of Super Bowl wins by holding onto the ball a second or two — or three — extra hoping a busted play becomes something more.

“It is not in my mindset, my DNA to quit on a play,” he said. “If it’s not there I have seen quarterbacks throw it away or go down and sometimes that’s the smart thing, but for me, there is also some big plays to be had and the competitor in me just can’t give up all the time.”

That perpetual optimism – and a dash of arrogance – is one of the reasons he believes the Steelers can find a way to be a factor down the stretch. Cotchery hasn’t noticed a change in Roethlisberger even in the midst of arguably the most trying stretch of his career.

“I came here to play here for a quarterback like Ben,” said Cotchery, who has four touchdown receptions in his last two games. “He’s going to give his guys a chance to make plays. It’s been a lot of fun playing with Ben, and I’m cherishing every moment.”

Something that’s been echoed throughout the locker room. Wide receiver Antonio Brown is on pace to smash Hines Ward’s team record for most receptions in a season. Roethlisberger is on pace to challenge a few of his single-season own marks, including most yards passing.

Yet he’s also in danger of posting the second-highest interception total of his career. He’s thrown 10 in nine games and fumbled seven times. He knows he needs to be better, and maybe less active, if Pittsburgh wants to get serious about chasing down the Bengals.

He is averaging 209 yards passing in the Steelers’ three wins, 317 yards in Pittsburgh’s six losses.

“Whatever it takes is fine by me,” he said..

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