MIKE O'HARA

OPPONENT BREAKDOWN: This has been an atypical season for Big Ben and Steelers

Posted Nov 14, 2013

Pittsburgh is in last place in the AFC North with a 3-6 record going into Sunday’s home game against the Lions at Heinz Field

Big Ben doesn’t pay much attention to the clock ticking on how much time he has left before the pocket collapses under the rush of opposing defensive linemen. He has even less concern about what he flatly calls an "erroneous" report that time is running out on his days in Pittsburgh.

Ben Roethlisberger has been a big target for pass rushers for most of his 10 seasons as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ quarterback. He takes hits to let his receivers get open to make big plays.

It is a tradeoff that has worked to the Steelers’ advantage most of Roethlisberger’s career. The Steelers won Super Bowls XL (at Ford Field in Detroit) and XLIII, and they lost to the Packers in Super Bowl XLV.

This is a different kind of season than the Steelers are accustomed to having. They are in last place in the AFC North with a 3-6 record going into Sunday’s home game against the Lions at Heinz Field.

"It’s not typical," Roethlisbeger said Wednesday in a conference-call interview with the Detroit media.

"We’re not used to having these kinds of seasons. For us, it’s a one-game season. We just say it’s the most important game of the year, and we’ve got to come out and try to get to 1-0."

The Steelers are one of the pillars of the NFL, with a long, rich winning tradition. They’ve won six Super Bowls, and their black and gold colors are familiar to fans.

What’s not familiar is how they’ve performed this year. The power has gone out of their running game on both sides of the ball, and they haven’t beaten a team with a winning record.

Two weeks ago, in a game that matched the NFL’s royalty, they gave up four fourth-quarter touchdowns and 610 total yards in absorbing a 55-31 drubbing by the New England Patriots.

Regardless of where the Steelers are in the standings, Roethlisberger’s style has not changed. At 6-5 and 241 pounds, Roethlisbserger is a big man who’s tough to bring down. He spins away in the pocket to elude pass-rushers and cocks and reloads his throwing arm before finally delivering the ball to a receiver.

Roethlisberger has been sacked 35 times, second most in the NFL behind Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill, and the Steelers are 29th in the league in sacks allowed per play.

"It’s not in my DNA, my mindset, to quit on a play," Roethlisberger said. "If something’s not there, I’ve seen quarterbacks throw it away, go down. Sometimes that’s a smart thing, but you know what? There are also some big plays to be had.

Nick Fairley and Ndamukong SuhDefensive tackles Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh (Photo: G.Smith/Detroit Lions)

"The competitor in me just can’t give up all the time."

If both teams play to form Sunday, Roethlisberger can count on getting pressure up the middle from Lions defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. Both had a sack and four quarterback hits in last week’s 21-19 victory at Chicago.

Roethlisberger joked about not being too brave in the face of the rush.

"You’ve got to be careful," he said. "You’ll end up dead if you’re not careful. It’s a great defensive line and defense. I tell myself all the time to be alert for things.

"Then, when the bullets start flying, who knows what’s going to happen?"

Suh joked back when told about Roethlisberger’s "end up dead" comment.

"That’s interesting," Suh said. "I’m not a killer. My track record proves that one, or I’d be in jail. I guess I have to take that as somewhat of a complement. There is going to be no killing on Sunday."

One thing that Roethlisberger insists is not going to happen is him demanding to be traded. On Wednesday, he briefly addressed the report that surfaced over the weekend that he wants out of Pittsburgh.

"It’s so erroneous, so ridiculous, I’m not even addressing it," Roethlisberger said. "It just takes away from what we’re trying to do. That’s win this football game. That’s all that matters to me.

"To me, it makes me so mad, I don’t even want to address it anymore."

STEELERS BREAKDOWN

How the Steelers got to 3-6: The running game has hurt them on both sides of the ball. They rank 27th in rushing offense with 80.6 yards per game and 29th in rushing defense, allowing  127.2 yards.

In sacks differential, they’ve given up 36 and sacked the opposing quarterback 16 times.

They started the season with four straight losses to the Titans, Bengals, Bears and Vikings (in London). They’ve rebounded to win three of the last five, beating the Jets and Ravens, losing two straight to the Raiders and Patriots and beating the woeful Bills, 23-10 last week.

Michigan connection: Rookie Le’Veon Bell of Michigan State is  Pittsburgh’s leading rusher, and receiver Antonio Brown of Central Michigan leads the NFL with 67 receptions.

STEELERS LEADERS

OFFENSE

Passing: Roethlisberger 218-338 (64.5 pct.), 2,534 yds., 13 TD, 10 Int., 35 sacks, 87.6 rating.

Rushing: Le’Veon Bell 102-339, 3.3 avg., 4 TD; Jonathan Dwyer 29-139, 4.8 avg., 0 TD; Felix Jones 35-128, 3.7 avg., 0 TD; Roethlisberger 12-49, 4.1 avg.

Receptions: Antonio Brown 67-805, 12.0 avg., 3 TD; Emmanuel Sanders 41-507, 12.4 avg., 2 TD; Jerricho Cotchery, 31-455, 14.7 avg., 6 TD; Heath Miller 25-274, 11.0 avg., 1 TD; Bell 20-186, 9.3 avg.

DEFENSE

Tackles: Lawrence Timmons 95; Ryan Clark 65; Troy Polamalu 57; William Gay 48; Vince Williams 44; Ike Taylor 39;  LaMarr Woodley 37; Brett Keisel 35; Cameron Heyward 27.

Sacks (team total 16): Woodley 5; Jason Worlds 3; Keisel, Heyward 2 each.

Quarterback pressures (team total 95): Keisel 23; Heyward 21; Woodley 14; Worlds 12.

Interceptions (team total 5): Clark 2; Timmons, Polamalu, Cortez Allen 1 each.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Punt returns: Brown 16, 13.7 ave., 50 long.

Kickoff returns: Jones 14, 23.7 ave., 42 long.

Punting: Mat McBriar 8-41.9 ave., 0 touchbacks, 1 inside 20.

Field goals: Shaun Suisham 19-21 FG; 16-16 PAT.