By: Bill Washinski
Two weeks ago when the Pittsburgh Steelers played against the Baltimore Ravens, an interesting bit of information was shared on the telecast. Ravens quarterback, Lamar Jackson won the 2019 MVP with a unanimous vote. Over the course of his career, Steelers quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger has not even received one single MVP vote.
While the NFL is waiting for the “unanimous MVP” to generate his comeback win, over the course of the last two games, the Steelers have had to come back from 10-point and 13-point deficits respectively. And after having received an extraordinary amount of criticism following the Tennessee Titans game where Roethlisberger had three interceptions, it’s interesting that nobody seems to want to acknowledge just what Big Ben has done to maintain the Steelers perfect season so far.
Against Baltimore and the Dallas Cowboys, the Steelers started off very slow. They have done a very poor job of running the ball and Roethlisberger has not exactly had hot starts either.
However, against the narrative that many professional analysts (yeah, personalities like Colin Cowherd and Max Kellerman), have pinned the Steelers difficulties on whom they perceived as the Steelers biggest weakness is Ben Roethlisberger.
Yet when the Steelers have been needing him them most, Roethlisberger has risen the highest.
Consider these this stat line: 28/36 for 302 yards, 5 TDs and 0 INTs. That is what Roethlisberger has done in the 2nd half the last two weeks – trailing by double digits in both games. That’s equivalent to a 141.2 passer rating.
2 MORE TDs.
This is not to infer thatRoethlisberger has not generated everything on his own. Good field position from an Alex Highsmith interception against the Ravens meant that it only took a single play (18-yard TD pass to Eric Ebron) to generate a score. But expand the scope just a bit more and as the 1st half wound down this past week trailing 13-0 against Dallas, and in a drive where he took a shot to the knee, Roethlisberger was 8/9 for 75 yards and a TD to James Washington before going into the locker room early to get checked out.
Against the Ravens, Steelers running back, James Conner was set up for a 1st and goal TD on the 1-yard line after a 6/6 for 65 yard drive engineered by Roethlisberger.
Roethlisberger’s All-Time records moved up another rung. Over the last two weeks, he passed John Elway and Dan Marino on the list for 4th quarter comebacks and is in a tie (4th All-Time) with the great Johnny Unitas with 34. It’s not the record list we “wanted” Roethlisberger to move up – but it’s better than the alternative!
Roethlisberger hasn’t done this alone – but if there is one player who has been less appreciated but more crucial to the Steelers game winning success these last two weeks, it has been JuJu Smith-Schuster. While all the hype has gone to Chase Claypool and again all the brilliant “experts” out there have called him an ideal #2 WR (I still don’t know what that even means) – it has been Smith-Schuster who has delivered when needed most. His numbers are not jumping off the stat sheet upon first glance, he only scored 1 TD and did not top 100 yards receiving in either game. Over the course of the last two weeks, his stat line to fantasy owners would be a disappointing 13 receptions for 160 yards and 1 TD.
If you take a deeper dive and say the heck with ‘fantasy-land’; you might notice that of those 13 receptions, 10 resulted in 1st downs, 5 of which JuJu Smith-Schuster broke tackles with to cross the sticks. After 3 of those 1st down conversion receptions, the Steelers scored on TDs on the next play, 1 to Chase Claypool, 1 to James Conner and 1 to JuJu Smith-Schuster himself.
It’s okay to be excited about the “new toy” you opened up on Christmas morning in Chase Claypool because he is good. But when the Steelers are really needing a big play in the big moment, more times than not it has been JuJu Smith-Schuster who has been delivering.