Ben Roethlisberger looked over at his sideline and the clock after his team took an illegal substitution penalty that backed him up to his 2-yard line. There was less than two minutes in the first half of the Steelers' third preseason game of the year, and he was facing a Buffalo Bills defense that had manhandled his protection to that point in the game.
He had enough of it.
Gesturing angrily in a way that seemed to suggest the coaching staff needed to get their stuff together, Roethlisberger turned into "Ben."
When Ben raises himself to that higher level, he becomes a lethal playmaker, a brilliant decision-maker and an inspiring leader. He practicially yawned while answering questions about what the preseason means to him in an interview a few days before that game against Buffalo.
He was spitting fire as he went back to the huddle in that two minute drill.
Roethlisberger may not care about the preseason. Ben sure did on that drive.
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And it looked like his team wouldn't dare let him down. LT Max Starks finally prevented DE Mario Williams from getting close to the ball. Ben had time to deliver passes with surgical precision. The one off-the-mark throw he made, RB Jonathan Dwyer made a phenomenal play on, picking up a critical first down.
When Ben comes out, so does his team. When the Steelers follow Ben, they're one of the best offenses in the game. The only problem is Roethlisberger can't pick and choose when Ben comes out. The situation dictates much of it, sort of like the Incredible Hulk coming out when Bruce Banner is angry.
Road environments typically lead to a somewhat conservative approach offensively. Running the ball against Denver's questionable run-stopping defense is probably the smart move. The Broncos should expect heavy doses of a healthy Isaac Redman as well as Dwyer. They may even get a shot or two of Rashard Mendenhall.
But at some point, Roethlisberger will feel Ben trying to rise to the surface. No offensive game plan, or offensive coach or personal mandate from ownership will prevent Ben from coming out on that field.
The Lakers didn't demand Shaquille O'Neal raise his free throw percentage to the low 80s before giving him a huge contract. The Steelers shouldn't ask Roethlisberger to discount the instinctive sandlot style that's made him the successful quarterback he's been since leading the Steelers to 15 straight wins in 2004.
Playing within himself means eventually letting Ben go. Watch Roethlisberger build up momentum of Redman, Dwyer and maybe even Mendenhall carry the load, but when the time is right, let Roethlisberger morph into Ben.
The results will speak for themselves.