From champ to chump?

ROB LONGLEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:57 AM ET

This is not about Big Ben going bust or the clock striking midnight on one of the NFL's best stories over the past two-plus seasons.

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is still big news, all right.

Unfortunately for the defending Super Bowl champions, it is for all the wrong reasons.

Roethlisberger is 0-2 since returning from an emergency appendectomy which sidelined him for the opener, the Steelers' only win this season.

And for those who can cut through the confetti, it's actually a three-game streak of mediocrity for the celebrated QB who was decidedly ordinary in the Bowl win over Seattle.

Roethlisberger still owns a remarkable 27-6 record in his regular-season career as a starter but is only 4-4 in his past eight. A year ago opponents, teammates and analysts couldn't gush enough. Today, each of those are left to surmise what, if anything, has gone wrong.

Big Ben is not alone in his September struggles. In fact, the first three weeks of this NFL season have been marked by some seriously scattered play at the quarterback position.

Starting from near the top of the pecking order, New England's Tom Brady hasn't looked himself, perhaps because he's at least four hands shy of a good receiving corps.

In Arizona, Kurt Warner fumbled away a sure win on Sunday and may pay for it with his job. The Matt Leinart era was going to start sometime this season and rumblings are it might be as soon as this weekend against Atlanta.

Before Tampa's Chris Simms lost his spleen, he was getting the snot knocked out of him.

And he looked good compared to Daunte Culpepper, the statuesque quarterback across the state in Miami.

More ugliness?

Prior to snapping out of it on Sunday, the Packers' Brett Favre and the Redskins' Mark Brunell looked like codgers on the way out.

But by virtue of his Super Bowl ring, the stunning start to his career and his bizarre off-season, Roethlisberger's plight is the most perplexing.

The 24-year-old's motorcycle accident this summer was readily dismissed as a kid doing a crazy kid thing.

The slow recovery from that mishap is excuse No. 1.

Some suggest Roethlisberger was rushed back from surgery too quickly for the Week 2 Monday nighter against the Jacksonville Jaguars. That's excuse No. 2.

He certainly was rusty enough that night against as stout a defence as he will face this season as the mighty Steelers were kept off the board in a 9-0 loss.

There isn't as much to excuse what happened Sunday at Heinz Field, however, when Roethlisberger was picked off three times -- once on the one-yard line and another in the end zone -- in a 28-20 loss to Cincinnati.

The worst of those might have been the pick early in the second quarter with the Steelers leading 7-0 and facing a first-and-goal from the six. A touchdown there could have been an early nail to drive into the visiting Bengals.

So now, the Steelers find themselves at 1-2 in a division that has two teams, the Bengals and Baltimore Ravens, at 3-0.

If that isn't dire enough, after a bye week to figure it out, Pittsburgh travel to San Diego to face the Chargers, a team viewed by many as the best in the AFC.

By now, everyone knows the Steelers weren't exactly quick starters a year ago, digging out of a 7-5 start to win eight in a row, including the Super Bowl.

It was during that run that Big Ben made everyone believe he was for real.

Now he must prove it all over again.


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