Ben Roethlisberger played poorly on Sunday. That almost puts it too kindly. Sunday was arguably the worst game of his career. Remember the five-interception loss against these very Jaguars, maybe not in the stat sheet or the fantasy scoreboard, but this start was worse. However, this start also ended with a much better taste in Pittsburgh Steelers fans mouths as he lunged into the end zone for a game-winning touchdown to erase all of the demons of the five-interception game, the playoff loss, and the first three quarters of this game.
Ben Roethlisberger needed that touchdown to win the game on Sunday. He needed it to be as ugly as it was. For the game he played, he had to fight for every last inch to earn that win. Heck, it was a beautiful run its own way. Like every other play in that game, it broke down from the start. Ben Roethlisberger had two options on that play. He was to hit James Conner on the flare to the flats or pitch it inside to Vance McDonald to tunnel in. Of course, both struggled to find any freedom and Ben Roethlisberger was left in no man’s land.
Knowing the way the game went this day, this meant a Roethlisberger interception was coming. Every stroke of brilliance and pocket break from Roethlisberger seemed to be met with two steps back.
However, Roethlisberger kept the ball in his hands and took care of business on his own.
The Jaguars cornerbacks came to play and had their best game of the season. That is until the last drive of the game. JuJu Smith-Schuster beat A.J. Bouye, and Antonio Brown beat Jalen Ramsey in succession to get the Steelers in scoring territory.
Then came that fateful last play. For Roethlisberger, it had to be on the goal line. Remember, the talk of Ben Roethlisberger and his lack of sneaking on short yardage situations began to be a subject of discussion when the Steelers failed to go that route on multiple occasions against the Jaguars in the playoffs.
Was it Todd Haley? He was not re-signed this offseason but did run sneaks in Cleveland. Was it Tomlin or the Steelers brass? Ben Roethlisberger ran a few this season once Haley left, though.
Was it Roethlisberger? Based on his effort and the result of his third and one run up the middle in this very game that could have been. Then, the Steelers went shotgun from the one-yard line.
Still, the only way the universe was going to let Ben Roethlisberger win that game was if he ran one straight up the gut. He beat Ramsey; he beat Bouye, he needed to truck ahead and put to rest the quarterback sneak questions.
So, the added difficulty of it being a busted play, and Roethlisberger having to beat a man one-on-one with a shoulder-the way old-school Ben Roethlisberger loved to do-made the play all the more perfect.
Did Ben Roethlisberger exercise demons in that game? Who knows. However, the meaning of that win and the way that Roethlisberger was able to get it done did feel different than your typical win or even last second win.
For the 36-year old Roethlisberger, we may see him breakthrough and start yet another chapter of his career from here.