PITTSBURGH — In this city, where every citizen seems to wear nothing but black and yellow, they still lovingly refer to him as Big Ben.
Roethlisberger's off-season misdeeds caused some early season queasiness in Steelers Nation but now, with an AFC North title in hand, the No. 2 seed in the conference and Saturday’s game against the hated Baltimore Ravens, all has been forgiven.
To the Baltimore fans and their team, though, Roethlisberger is more than a hulking quarterback they loathe. To them he is akin to the Colossus of Rhodes, a quarterback of such giant proportions that he simply can not be toppled.
He is the Goliath that all the Baltimore David’s have not been able to slay no matter how many rocks they sling his way.
When facing the Ravens, Big Ben has become an unstoppable force as he has been able to beat the Ravens the last six times he has played them and has forged an 8-2 record against them overall.
It’s not as if in those defeats the Ravens have been pounded. Instead, their hearts have been pulled out of their chests as time and again Roethlisberger has yanked victories out of his butt and turned sure losses into wins with a never-ending series of late-game heroics.
The last time the teams met, just over a month ago in Baltimore, thanks to a great sack by Troy Polamalu that separated Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco from the ball, the Steelers took over inside the Ravens 10. With 2:51 to play on third down, Roethlisberger completed a TD pass to Isaac Redman to produce a 13-10 victory that helped seal their title and send Baltimore on the road as a wild card team.
Baltimore coach John Harbaugh has faced Roethlisberger five times in his career and has yet to come out on the winning side.
The Ravens did manage to down the Steelers 17-14 back on Oct. 3 at Heinz Field but that was the fourth and final game of Roethlisberger’s suspension for his unsavory off-season behaviour.
“Yeah, it bothers me a lot,” Harbaugh said this week when asked about his record against Roethlisberger. “I’d rather we won. We want to win those games. Obviously, he’s a really good quarterback. We’ve had a history here, for whatever reason, in the last three years.”
And not a good one.
What drives Ravens fans crazy is Roethlisberger’s ability to manufacture big plays out of chaos.
A quarterback that’s hard to put down due to his size, Roethlisberger can handle a number of hits, shake them off and start to scramble for his life. That’s when he seems to be at his best, when he’s the most dangerous.
“There’s a lot of times when he’s outside the pocket that he’s far more dangerous than when he’s inside the pocket,” Ravens linebacker Jarret Johnson said. “And that’s not to say he’s not good when he’s in the pocket. But his ability to throw accurately on the run and on the fly and just create stuff is uncanny.”
Just like his last-minute touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes in the Steeler's 27-23 Super Bowl victory over Arizona two years ago — their last post-season game.
As a result, when crunch time occurs in big games in big moments, both the Steelers and Roethlisberger are calm and confident. And why not, they’ve been in the situation so many times and thanks to Big Ben, have come out on the winning side.
“I’ve seen and heard a few of the guys say: ‘In seven (No. 7) we trust,” Roethlisberger said the other day. “That’s an unbelievable honour. I don’t take that for granted.
“But I do take that pressure. I want to be that guy for this team. I want to win for my teammates.”
When facing the Ravens, history shows that he usually comes through.
On Saturday, the chances are good that he’ll come through again.