The Pittsburgh Steelers are back-to-back winners for the first time in this 2018 season after a solid performance vs. the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium in Week 6. With the team now able to relax on their bye-week in Week 7, they will hope to improve on their 3-2-1 record by beating the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens in Weeks 8 and 9.
Something I did last season and I’m going to start again is the Black-and-gold Links article.
This is an article where I take stories from quality news sources across the Internet and add them here for your viewing pleasure. I won’t be posting the entire articles, but I’ll link each story and author so that you can read the full article.
Today we talk about QB1 -- you know, Ben Roethlisberger. The topic in question being is this the best Big Ben fans have ever seen in his lengthy NFL career? This can be debated until the cows come home, and a lot of other factors tie into Roethlisberger’s success — offensive line, weapons, defense, etc. But we ask, is this the best we’ve ever seen of Roethlisberger?
Let’s get to the news:
Joe Starkey: No, Ben Roethlisberger isn’t slowing down. He might even be speeding toward history
By: Joe Starkey, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
I’m not seeing it.
Obviously, Ben Roethlisberger has struggled at times this season. The opener in Cleveland was cringeworthy. The game against Baltimore was perplexing. The first half against Atlanta was flat-out ugly.
I know some of his advanced stats have declined in recent years, too, including his consistency on deep balls and accuracy under pressure.
I’ve been watching television when alarmist headlines such as “Are We Seeing The End of Big Ben?” flash across the screen — one game into the season — and somebody like ESPN’s Max Kellerman answers the question by saying, “No, no. We’ve already seen the end of Big Ben.”
Man, I must be missing something. I must not be seeing it, because my eyes tell me Roethlisberger remains elite. The numbers tell me that, too, though I acknowledge the numbers can always be twisted to tell one side of the story.
Since the Cleveland game, it’s a fact that Roethlisberger — possibly with a banged-up right elbow — has completed 67 percent of his passes for 1,698 yards, 11 touchdowns, and three interceptions (plus a few, granted, that should have been picked off).
It’s also true that he has a very real chance to break the NFL record for passing yards in a season. He is on pace for 5,421, which would be good for third all-time and just 56 short of Peyton Manning’s record 5,477 in 2013.
Yes, I know. Everyone’s putting up video-game passing numbers these days. I’m just not sure how you can lead the NFL in yards, possibly throwing for more than Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees or anyone else ever has in a single season, if you’re a quarterback in decline. That would be quite a trick.
All respect to Kellerman, but the notion that we have “already seen the end of Big Ben” is preposterous. Maybe it’s just what we do when an elite athlete reaches his mid-30s. We wonder if every mistake, every bad game, might signal the beginning of the end. A few Jacksonville Jaguars defenders hinted at something like after they picked off five Roethlisberger passes early last season.
That was before he threw for 469 yards and five touchdowns in the rematch.
Offensive line hitting its stride at right time for Steelers
By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
No unit on a football team depends on timing and repetition more than the offensive line. That belief even rings true for a veteran group such as the Steelers, whose five starters are in their fourth season together.
With early-season injuries behind them, the Steelers offensive linemen have started to find their rhythm, the evidence coming in the form of back-to-back wins for the first time this season.
James Conner has pieced together consecutive 100-yard rushing performances, and Ben Roethlisberger has gone two games in a row without being sacked, further proof of the line’s dominance.
“There’s a lot of reasons why you should be excited about the efforts of the men up front,” coach Mike Tomlin said last Sunday after the Steelers’ 28-21 victory against the Cincinnati Bengals improve the team’s record to 3-2-1 heading into the bye week.
The reverse was true entering the season. Left guard Ramon Foster missed all of the preseason with a hyperextended knee. All-Pro right guard David DeCastro missed the second and third games with a hand injury. Right tackle Marcus Gilbert missed the third game with a balky hamstring.
The line also had to adjust to a new starting running back in Conner, who took over when Le’Veon Bell decided to extend his ongoing absence into the regular season.
The five starters – including center Maurkice Pouncey and left tackle Alejandro Villanueva – have suited up for the past three weeks. That modest streak is worth mentioning because the group, despite its lengthy history together, started only four games together the entire 2017 regular season – and no more than two in a row.
“I think the offensive line drives our group. It always will,” offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner said. “Pouncey is recognized as a captain this year by vote, and so that group usually drives most teams. … Pouncey and the offensive line basically takes on the personality of our group, and that’s why we have to always understand that. And to understand that means that we have to be a physical group.
“We have to be a group that puts the ball in their lap and says, ‘Let’s go.’”
Breakout stalled, James Washington still searching for ‘Top Gun’ moves
By: Jeremy Fowler, ESPN
While a record-breaking receiver at Oklahoma State, James Washington often got free on a move his coaches called “Top Gun”: creating separation with a hip push-off is like hitting the air brakes and watching the jet fly by.
Only one problem navigating that move against NFL cornerbacks.
”They call it ‘throw by’ here. It’s illegal,” the Pittsburgh Steelers rookie receiver said. “Unless you can do it subtly. I’m trying to become a pro.”
That means mastering the nuances of the receiver position in the Steelers offense, which is the next crucial step for the clearly talented second-rounder.
Watch Washington in a practice setting and you’ll see at least one impressive play from the graceful leaper who excels at the combat catch.
But as a third or fourth receiving option in Pittsburgh, Washington is stuck on five catches for 49 yards despite 14 targets. That 35.7 percent success rate is well below the next-closest receiver with at least 10 targets, Antonio Brown, who has 40 catches on 72 targets (55 percent).
To be sure, many plays designed for Washington are intermediate or deep passes with a lower success rate. But finding a rhythm on the field has admittedly been a process for Washington, who was held on one deep ball (a no-call) and was called for pass interference on another. In the Week 6 victory over Cincinnati, the Steelers turned to veteran Justin Hunter over Washington late in the game.
For the first time, Washington is adjusting to a supporting role.