By John Harris
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Terry Hoeppner knew Ben Roethlisberger would be back. You can't keep a good quarterback down. Not a quarterback with so much confidence and talent.
Roethlisberger shared that feeling of satisfaction with Hoeppner, his former college coach, after the Steelers' 45-7 trouncing of Kansas City on Sunday at Heinz Field.
Roethlisberger put his stamp on the Steelers for the first time in 2006 with a breakout performance. He completed 16-of-19 passes and tossed two touchdowns, and again established himself as the on-field face of the franchise.
Even Roethlisberger's biggest critics and the Steelers' most persistent skeptics would have to admit something special happened in a game the Steelers needed to win.
It was a win over a mediocre-at-best Kansas City team, but for the first time in a long time, the Roethlisberger-led Steelers were in perfect offensive harmony.
Not to say I told you so, but Hoeppner, the Indiana University coach who helped Roethlisberger become a first-round NFL draft pick at Miami (Ohio), has seen Roethlisberger come through so many times there was every reason to believe he'd do it again.
"I never doubted for a second that he wouldn't come back and have a great year," Hoeppner said yesterday. "He's confident in his abilities. The arm's great. He's back."
Roethlisberger plays for the Steelers. He takes his directions from coach Bill Cowher and offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt. But he knew Hoeppner before he was a Steeler, and Hoeppner repesents a special time in Roethlisberger's life.
When Roethlisberger needs someone to talk to during the season, he often turns to Hoeppner for guidance. When Roethlisberger failed to record a touchdown pass in his first three starts, coinciding with the Steelers' three-game losing skid, Hoeppner reminded him that quarterbacks and head coaches receive too much credit, and too much blame.