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As season winds down, the “new” Ben hasn’t changed
“He’s a winner,” wide receiver Hines Ward said. “He gives us a chance to win every time. I love the way he plays.”
He’s also earned nothing but praise from an organization that willingly went along with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s plan to suspend him for six games, a punishment later cut to four games. Goodell said Roethlisberger has gone above and beyond what the league sought, and no one associated with the team or league has said anything to the contrary.
Despite the delayed start to his season, there’s been no significant falloff in Roethlisberger’s performance. He’s led the Steelers to an 11-4 record and, if they beat the Browns (5-10) on Sunday, they’ll secure the AFC North and a first-round playoff bye. He has completed 225 of 367 passes for 2,920 yards, 15 touchdowns and, so far, a career-low five interceptions.
He has completed his last 136 passes without an interception, the longest such streak of his seven-season career. He has done so despite throwing to a much-altered receiving corps; Santonio Holmes was traded to the Jets, second-year receiver Mike Wallace became a starter and rookie Emmanuel Sanders gradually moved into the No. 3 receiver’s role.
“Interceptions drive me crazy,” he said. “That’s something I try to pride myself in.”
Even as teammates such as James Harrison were fined for dangerous hits, Roethlisberger absorbed several hits to the helmet that weren’t penalized, including a blow by the Ravens’ Haloti Ngata that broke his nose. Raiders defensive end Richard Seymour also punched him in the face, drawing an ejection.
His teammates complained that quarterbacks such as Tom Brady were protected, but theirs was not. Roethlisberger voiced no vehement protests.
“Ben doesn’t have to prove anything to us,” Pouncey said. “When he came back into that (Ravens) game with the broken nose, we couldn’t believe what he went through. He was in excruciating pain, but he still made all the plays. He’s one tough guy, and I’m glad he’s our quarterback. It’s an honor.”
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