After a week of speculation, denials, and rumors, Ben Roethlisberger was able to take the field against the Cleveland Browns. Big Ben came off the bench in the first half, after starter Landry Jones was carted off with an ankle injury. Roethlisberger led the Steelers to a blowout win over the hapless Browns 30-9.
The Steelers went to work with Jones, but the backup quarterback was dinged up on the second offensive series. Jones had his ankle rolled up on by either Browns defensive end Desmond Bryant or Steelers tackle Markus Wheaton. Bryant was pushing Wheaton back as Jones stepped up to make a third-down throw.
Roethlisberger made a few warm-up tosses on the sideline, grabbed his helmet and ran onto the field. The Heinz Field faithful went wild. He showed no effects of the painful injury that took him out of the Raiders game a week before. He quickly hit Martavis Bryant for 44 yards on a play that set the tone for the Steelers’ pass-happy offense. Roethlisberger showed no signs of physical discomfort as he repeatedly slung it deep for an outrageous 286 yards passing at the half and 379 on the day. Spraying the ball to seven different receivers at 11.5 yards per throw, Big Ben put up a heroic effort.
The Steelers ran their record to 6-4 on the year and are right in the thick of playoff contention. There were things that looked wonderful for the Steelers and there were areas that could be improved. The Steelers No. 5-ranked running game couldn’t get on track. According to ESPN stats and statistics, the Steelers were held to 60 yards rushing. The 2.9 yards per carry is far below what the Browns usually give up.
The Steelers’ defense was a monster all day. They ended the game with six sacks of Johnny Manziel and held the Browns at bay in the red zone. The Browns had a long 15-play drive that ended when Manziel was picked off trying to improvise. Rolling to his right, he thought he saw an open Andrew Hawkins flash on the goal line. When Manziel released the pass, the Steelers’ Mike Mitchell politely stepped in front of the bullet for the interception. Mitchell made the mistake of running the ball out of the end zone and only reached the nine yard line.
The gutsy play of Big Ben was even a surprise to himself. He was amazed at being able to perform, after his foot was in a boot and being questionable for the start.
“I kinda surprised myself,” said Roethlisberger. “My foot was basically black and blue, early in the week. I didn’t expect to have to go in that early. You basically treat it like a normal game.”
After the game, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin praised Roethlisberger’s effort on little-to-no reps of preparation in practices. Landry Jones performed most of the quarterback duties at Friday’s practice.
[Feature Photo by Jared Wickerham / Getty Images]