Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger likely to miss a few weeks
It appears that the shoulder injury that knocked out Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in Monday night’s close win over Kansas City will keep Big Ben out for at least a game or two – and Pittsburgh has to face division rival Baltimore in two of its next three. Bet on the NFL at WagerWeb.com.
Roethlisberger was sacked by the Chiefs’ Justin Houston to end Pittsburgh’s first possession of the second half. Roethlisberger finished 9-of-18 for 84 yards and a touchdown for the Steelers, who won their fourth straight game by beating Kansas City 16-13 in overtime to improve to 6-3.
Roethlisberger is “extremely sore” Tuesday morning and “hurting pretty bad,” according to ESPN. He is headed to get another MRI, which will give the team a better idea of the how significant the injury is. It seemed highly unusual and perhaps an indication of the seriousness of the injury that Monday night Roethlisberger went from the stadium to the hospital for an MRI on his right shoulder so late at night and remained there past midnight. Big Ben has been on the field for nearly 90 percent of the Steelers regular-season snaps over the last five years including 92 percent of Pittsburgh’s designed pass plays. Yahoo! is reporting it’s a separated shoulder.
The Steelers have two veteran backup quarterbacks in Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch — neither of whom has played much recently because of their own injuries and because Roethlisberger has been so durable. If history is any comfort, the team has survived without Roethlisberger, going 3-1 when he was suspended at the start of the 2010 season. (Back then, Leftwich was a candidate to step in, but he suffered a knee injury in the Steelers’ final preseason game.) But they’ve never done without him for more than four games and there’s a particularly tough stretch looming.
Roethlisberger has played through pain before, but a shoulder injury is a different matter. A year ago, he hurt his ankle in a Thursday night game against Cleveland and, after limping into the locker room for X-rays, led the Steelers to a victory. He missed only a game last year.
Ben Roethlisberger settles rape lawsuit
Lawyers for Roethlisberger and his accuser — Andrea McNulty — announced the two sides have reached an agreement which ends the lawsuit.
McNulty — who worked at the Harrah’s Hotel in Lake Tahoe at the time of the alleged incident — had claimed Ben invited her into his penthouse suite to fix a broken TV and then raped her.
In her suit, McNulty claimed Ben became “stern,” after the alleged rape he allegedly kicked her out of the room and told her, “If anyone asks you, you fixed my television. You fixed my television. Now go!”
Ben adamantly denied all the allegations.
McNulty’s lawyer also confirms they have dropped their case against multiple Harrah’s employees McNulty had accused of covering up the alleged sexual assault.
The terms of the settlement are confidential.
Steelers’ Roethlisberger tweaks injured ankle but will start
Although there’s little doubt that Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger will start Sunday’s AFC wild-card game at Denver on Sunday afternoon, Big Ben might be completely immobile after revealing he tweaking his injured ankle during Sunday’s win over the Browns.
Pittsburgh is a 9-point WagerWeb.com NFL football bets favorite over Denver.
Roethlisberger said he aggravated the injury on a third-quarter play against Cleveland, but it wasn’t bad enough for him to leave the game. He completed 23 of 40 passes for 221 yards while taking every snap.
“I felt really good going into the Cleveland game,” said Roethlisberger, who first injured the ankle Dec. 8 against the Browns at Heinz Field. “I don’t know if I caught it on the ground wrong or got hit … we’ll see; we’ll be all right.”
Roethlisberger was limited in practice on Wednesday and walked into the trainer’s room afterward with a noticeable limp, something he didn’t have going into the Browns’ game after sitting out the week before against St. Louis.
“We are working really hard with the doctors and trainers to get back to even where we were before the Cleveland game,” Roethlisberger said. “I felt pretty good going in, and even moved a little bit at the beginning of that game.”
Since he first hurt his ankle, Roethlisberger has played six quarters and has thrown one touchdown, four interceptions and has a passer rating of 68.5. In games before the injury, Roethlisberger had a 95.1 passer rating. Since his injury, Roethlisberger has had two of his four worst passer ratings. Four of his six-worst passer ratings this year have resulted in losses, with the other two being 13-9 wins over Kansas City, and then Cleveland.
Meanwhile, center Maurkice Pouncey (left ankle) was also limited in practice while linebacker James Harrison (toe), defensive end Brett Keisel (right groin), running back Mewelde Moore (sprained left knee) and safety Troy Polamalu (right calf) did not practice. All but Moore are expected to play against the Broncos.
Super Bowl XLV: Pittsburgh pass offense vs. Green Bay pass defense
The Pittsburgh Steelers are very fortunate in that they can run the ball effectively and, if that’s not working, then there’s Ben Roethlisberger. Very few teams in the NFL can shut down both the running and passing game of any team, much less a team in the Super Bowl.
Case in point is the Baltimore game in the Divisional round. With RB Rashard Mendenhall held to 49 yards by the tough Ravens D, Roethlisberger stepped up and threw for 236 yards and two touchdowns.
Roethlisberger is, of course, the heart and soul of the Steeler offense. His rough-and-tumble style is effective (and attention grabbing), but it often detracts from his ability to throw on the run and stand in the pocket.
Roethlisberger benefits from having a group of receivers that cover every part of the field.
First, there is Hines Ward, the across-the-middle-take-a-hit guy. He caught 59 passes for 755 yards, but his toughness carries over through the entire receiving corps.
There is Mr. Big Play, Mike Wallace, who caught a team-high 60 passes for 1,257 yards and 10 TD. He averages 21 yards per catch and nearly half (26) of his catches were for 20 yards or longer.
Next, there is tight end Heath Miller, the perfect outlet receiver, who can also break a pattern and go deep. Finally, and perhaps most important, are the ancillary receivers like Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders, who fill their roles perfectly.
The pass offense will have to deal with Green Bay linebacker Clay Matthews, who has proven quick enough to catch Michael Vick and powerful enough to bring down Roethlisberger. Matthews has recorded 3.5 sacks this postseason and he will be a force to be reckoned with Sunday.
Roethlisberger will have to contend with last year’s Defensive Player of the Year in cornerback Charles Woodson and his counterpart Tramon Williams, who has shown a knack for being around the ball and making big plays in important situations late in the year. He had a game-saving interception against the Eagles and picked off two passes against Atlanta.
Green Bay may need a couple of big plays like those if they hope to keep the Pittsburgh passing game quiet. The Pack are 2.5-point favorites on WagerWeb.com.
AFC Championship Game: Pittsburgh Steelers offense vs. New York Jets defense
Ben Roethlisberger gets to face what could be the best defensive back corps in the league. And he knows exactly what he’s up against.
“The Jets’ defense beat the two best quarterbacks in the game at their place. I don’t know how I’m going to do it,” Roethlisberger said this week. How much of that he actually believes is a whole other story.
The biggest difference between Big Ben and the other two quarterbacks is a) he’s not going to fall down like Tom Brady did all last week whenever a Jet defender breathed on him and b) when he scrambles from the pocket, he has players that can make plays down the field, unlike Peyton Manning two weeks ago.
A couple of those players are Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders and Mike Wallace.
Brown and Sanders are rookie receivers who are really starting to come into their own with the Steelers, as they begin to understand their roles. It was Brown who caught a 58-yard pass from Roethlisberger on third-and-19 last week against Baltimore, helping to set up Rashard Mendenhall’s game-winning touchdown run.
Then, of course, there is Wallace, perhaps the league’s best big-play receiver.
Tight end Heath Miller is always dangerous and is one of Big Ben’s biggest check-down threats.
All of those players will have to deal with Darrelle Revis, one of the best shutdown corners in the league, and Antonio Cromartie, who has been uncharacteristic in his praise of Roethlisberger this week.
Those two will most likely draw the tasks of shadowing Hines Ward, who had his worst season statistically but is still a dangerous threat, and Wallace.
The Steelers will try to run the ball against the Jets, who give up an average of 90 yards per game on the ground, but they most likely won’t succeed. Mendenhall had 20 carries for 46 yards against a nasty Ravens defense last week.
That defense ranks fifth in the league. The Jets rank third.
So, look for Mendenhall to maybe reach 50 yards on the ground, but don’t count on 100. That means the Steelers offensive hopes come down to Roethlisberger and his ability to find open receivers while avoiding the rush, which in the New York Jets world, could come from any angle on any play.
AFC Divisional Playoff: Baltimore Ravens (13-4) at Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4)
The Divisional round of the playoffs opens on Saturday afternoon in Pittsburgh when the Steelers face the Ravens in what is easily the NFL’s most physical rivalry. Pittsburgh is 20-12 against the Ravens, including playoff wins following the 2001 and 2008 seasons.
Where: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Pa., Saturday, 4:30 p.m.
Trends: The under is 12-4-1 in the Ravens last 17 games on grass and 6-2 in their last 8 playoff games; The Steelers are 7-1 against the spread in their last 8 playoff games.
Key injuries: Baltimore – Questionable: WR David Reed, TE Dennis Pitta, LB Tavares Gooden, S Tom Zbikowski. Pittsburgh – Doubtful: DE Aaron Smith; Questionable: LB Jason Worilds, DT Steve McLendon, CB Bryant McFadden, G Maurkice Pouncey; Probable: RB Mewelde Moore.
What To Look For: If you believe the playoffs are all about bruising and hitting and big defensive plays punctuated by the occasional offensive outburst, this is the game for you.
There is no question this game will be a lesson in how defense is supposed to be played in the NFL, much less during the postseason. Add in the fact that neither team really likes the other team and those hits may be just a bit more punishing.
To make matters even better, the high on Saturday in Pittsburgh is 32 (the low is 28) and there is snow expected.
Of note, though not really applicable to this game, is the fact the Ravens beat the Steelers earlier this season, 17-14 at Pittsburgh. But that was the final game of Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger’s suspension. More applicable is the fact that Pittsburgh avenged that loss in Week 13 with a Roethlisberger-led 13-10 win at Baltimore.
Which brings us to the rubber game of all rubber games.
When Big Ben is on the field, the Steelers have won the last six games between these two teams. He will be on the field Saturday. At home.
And this game almost definitely hinges on Roethlisberger and his Ravens counterpart, Joe Flacco. Neither team has given up a 100-yard rusher any of their last 28 playoff games. Think about that stat for a minute. . The Steelers led the NFL in rushing defense. In the two games earlier this season, Baltimore had 70 and 43 yards.
That means big-play receivers like Pittsburgh’s Mike Wallace, who averaged 21 yards per catch, and the Ravens’ Anquan Bolden, who caught 64 passes this season, will be key at some point during this game.
Wallace, however, hasn’t score in four games against the Ravens. On the other hand, Baltimore’s biggest offensive weapon, do-everything RB Ray Rice, hasn’t scored against the Steelers in six games.
You can expect lots of short, quick passes as both quarterbacks maneuver to beat the onrush of defenders. So, look for tight ends Todd Heap and Heath Miller to get their share of looks. Heap had 108 receiving yards last week for the Ravens.
One thing the Ravens don’t have to worry about is Flacco feeling out of place away from home. He had led the team to four road game playoff wins in his short tenure in Baltimore and knows the Steelers well.
This is one of the most evenly matched games of the entire weekend. Perhaps the season.
Consider this: Five of the seven meetings over the past 28 months have been decided by three points, the other two were by four points and nine points. In 17 meetings since 2003, the teams have each scored 302 points.
Cincinnati Bengals (2-10) at Pittsburgh Steelers (9-3)
Where: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Penn., 1 p.m.
Trends: The Bengals are 2-7 against the spread in their last 9 games overall; The over is 7-3-1 in the Steelers last 11 games as a favorite; The road team is 13-4-1 against the spread in the last 18 meetings between these two teams.
Key Injuries: Cincinnati – Out: DB Brandon Ghee. Pittsburgh – Out: DE Aaron Smith, Daniel Sepulveda; Doubtful: T Flozell Adams, TE Heath Miller; Questionable: T Chris Scott; Probable: QB Ben Roethlisberger, TE Matt Spaeth.
What To Look For: It has been a season of trade-offs for the Pittsburgh Steelers. It seems with every big win, they lose another player to injury. Against Miami, it was DE Aaron Smith. Hines Ward went out against Buffalo. Last week, against the Ravens, it was Ben Roethlisberger finishing with a broken nose, which required surgery. That went along well with the ankle injury he was already worrying about.
The good news for Pittsburgh is it plays the rival Cincinnati Bengals this weekend and Cincinnati hasn’t exactly been a world beater, much less a player hurter.
Roethlisberger is expected to be back for the game, despite having surgery on his nose on Monday to correct what the doctor called an injury that made his nose look like “corn flakes”.
The Steelers are looking to protect sole possession of first place and seal up home-field advantage through the playoffs. Cincinnati shouldn’t do much to stand in the way of that.
The defense that has made the Steelers legendary through the years has returned during the team’s current three-game winning streak. They have given up 29 points while allowing opponents to average 260 total yards. They gave up 80 points in their previous three games — a stretch that included losses to New Orleans and New England.
Roethlisberger is 9-4 as a starter against the Bengals, throwing for 163 yards and one touchdown in a 27-21 victory in November. He is just 3-3 at home against Cincinnati, including last season’s 18-12 loss. But he will be without TE Heath Miller, who has 33 receptions for 384 yards and a TD, but will most likely be out with a concussion.
Matt Spaeth would start if Miller is unable to go. Spaeth sustained a concussion against Oakland on Nov. 21 and has missed the last two games.
The Bengals, last year’s AFC North champions in 2009, are trying to end a nine-game losing streak. They have lost every way imaginable, including being drawn offsides last week on 4th down, giving New Orleans a first down and then being scored on during the next play.
Terrell Owens leads the team with 71 catches and is 39 yards shy of reaching 1,000 receiving for the 10th time. But even he can’t figure out how to turn the Bengal luck around.
Watch Richard Seymour punch Ben Roethlisberger’s face (video)
After completing the 22-yard throw to Emmanuel Sanders, Roethlisberger jumped into the arms of tackle Flozell Adams. Roethlisberger then began walking forward and appeared to say something to Seymour, who turned and struck the quarterback in the jaw with his open right hand.
As Roethlisberger went to his back, lineman Chris Kemoeatu grabbed Seymour. Both Seymour and Kemoeatu drew penalties, but only Seymour was ejected.
Seymour also was ejected last Dec. 27 for hitting Browns running back Jerome Harrison after a play was over. Seymour was fined $10,000 for that infraction.