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Steelers historically struggle when Ben Roethlisberger returns from injuries

Ben Roethlisberger has missed four games at Baltimore in his career, but it doesn’t look like Sunday’s game will be his fifth.

Roethlisberger practiced this week less than three weeks after having surgery on his torn meniscus, and at this point it would be stunning if he doesn’t start against the Ravens (3-4).

The Steelers (4-3) are trying to stay in first place in the AFC North. If they lose, they’d be tied with the Ravens atop the division with the Ravens holding the tiebreaker at least until the teams meet again on Christmas.

Roethlisberger’s imminent return is good news for the Steelers. He gives them a better chance to win than Landry Jones.

But can he change the course of history?

In Roethlisberger’s career, the Steelers are 2-5 in his first game back from an injury. He’s thrown nine touchdown passes and 10 interceptions in those games.

Here’s a look at these not-so-memorable performances.

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Pittsburgh Steelers Week 9 Matchup Preview

Week 9 of the NFL season has plenty of divisional showdowns on the slate, and the Baltimore Ravens vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers is one that plenty will have an eye on. The Steelers (4-3) currently lead the AFC North, but Baltimore (3-4) is right on their heels. The Cincinnati Bengals (3-4-1) are also right in the thick of things, and the Cleveland Browns are, well, the Cleveland Browns (0-8).

The Steelers will be traveling to Baltimore for the first of two games against their division foes. The second will come in Pittsburgh on Christmas day. Even though we are only at the halfway point of the season both teams will likely play this game with playoff intensity, with first place in the division on the line.

The Steelers may be getting a big boost to their chances after quarterback Ben Roethlisberger announced there is a possibility he will suit up for the contest, despite undergoing knee surgery just three weeks ago.

The Steelers have struggled without Big Ben under center. They are currently on a 2 game losing streak after losing 30-15 to the Miami Dolphins and 27-16 to the New England Patriots. Landry Jones played decently with  sidelined, but one’s a future hall of famer and the other is simply a mediocre backup quarterback. If Ben returns to action this Sunday, he will be just what the Pittsburgh offense ordered.

Whether Big Ben can play or not, Pittsburgh will rely on running back Le’Veon Bell to shoulder a big load once again. Standing in his way will be the formidable linebacker tandem of C.J. Mosley and Zach Orr. They have anchored a surprisingly good Baltimore defense that allows only 82 rushing yards per game, but rushing will only be half the battle.  Bell has amassed 589 total yards from scrimmage, 245 of them through the air, despite playing in just 4 games this season. The match-up between one of the best runners in the game and two of the best run stoppers in the game will be key all afternoon.

Baltimore’s offense has been the primary reason for their struggles this year. They rank near or below the bottom third of the league in every major offensive category, but could turn it around against a Steelers defense that allows almost 400 total yards per game to opponents. Terrance West has emerged as a formidable threat out of the backfield for the Ravens, and he figures to be highly involved with quarterback Joe Flacco struggling.

In such a tightly contested division, this game is sure to see some extra fireworks. Given the storied, yet brutal, history between these two division foes, who would expect anything less?

Steelers lose to Patriots, need better backup plan at quarterback

The Steelers have had a hard enough time beating Tom Brady and the Patriots with Ben Roethlisberger.

So with Roethlisberger sidelined Sunday, the Patriots’ 27-16 win at Heinz Field isn’t exactly a jaw dropper.

Landry Jones did his best. So maybe, as Stuart Smalley would say, the Steelers’ latest loss to the Patriots is “OK.”

After all, how should a team be expected to win without its starting quarter …

Wait a minute.

The Patriots started the season 3-1 with Brady serving his Deflategate suspension. The Steelers are 2-3 in their last five full games without Roethlisberger going back to last season. Sunday’s loss was their second straight.

If the Patriots can keep their season on track without their starting quarterback, why can’t the Steelers?

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Dolphins 30, Steelers 15: Steelers full report card

Where have we seen this before?

Once again the Steelers laid a big egg against an NFL weakling, falling to the Dolphins 30-15 Sunday.

Unless the Dolphins (2-4) really are as good as the Steelers made them look Sunday, this will be the fifth straight year the Steelers (4-2) have lost to a team that finishes 5-11 or worse.

This time, there’s an extra layer of concern because assuming this loss does fall into that category, it’s the first such loss that has come by more than seven points. This didn’t come down to an unlucky bounce. The Steelers were beaten soundly.

The good news is the Steelers don’t face a bad team next week. They host the Patriots. The bad news is they won’t have Ben Roethlisberger, who suffered a torn meniscus in his left knee and was scheduled to have surgery Monday morning.

The Steelers have a bye in Week 8 and go to Baltimore in Week 9. Roethlisberger could miss just one game since Pro Football Talk is reporting that his surgery will only be a “cleanup” procedure. Just when the Steelers were starting to look like one of the best teams in the AFC, their season hinges not only on Roethlisberger’s knee but finding a way to handle teams they’re supposed to beat.


Ben Roethlisberger has been a different quarterback on the road since 2014. He’s thrown 51 touchdown passes at home since then and only 18 on the road.

He went 59 minutes without throwing one Sunday before feeding Cobi Hamilton for his career touchdown. It turned out to be too little, too late.

Roethlisberger completed 19 of 34 passes for 189 yards, just 5.6 yards per attempt. He temporarily left the game with the knee injury, and CBS analyst Solomon Wilcots said that it affected his accuracy after he returned. But his two interceptions were more about poor decision making. He threw both into double coverage.

Landry Jones failed to complete his only pass when he subbed for Roethlisberger.

Grade: D

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Five takeaways from Steelers’ 31-13 win over Jets

It’s hard to imagine the Steelers worrying about the Jets in Week 17 this year.

The Steelers delivered another blow to the staggering Jets Sunday, beating them 31-13 at Heinz Field. Ben Roethlisberger threw four touchdown passes and he’s thrown nine in the last two games without an interception.

The Jets could have made the playoffs last year, but instead let the Steelers in when they lost at Buffalo in Week 17. If the Steelers (4-1) keep playing the way they did Sunday, they won’t be doing any scoreboard watching on the last day of the regular season.

The Jets aren’t a bad team

This might sound like an observation more fit for a preview of the game, but part of the reason the Jets are 1-4 is their brutal schedule. They split their first two games, losing at home to the Bengals and winning at Buffalo. Then they lost at Kansas City, at home to Seattle and Sunday in Pittsburgh.

When the Steelers fell behind 13-7 in the second quarter Sunday and struggled to pull away early in the second half, there were grumblings on social media that they were in danger of losing to an inferior opponent like they’ve done a few times in recent seasons. Every year since 2012, they’ve lost at least once to a team with a 5-11 record or worse. The 2016 Jets might fall short of the playoffs, but they’re better than the 2015 Ravens and the 2014 Buccaneers.

The point is that the Steelers revealed some character in this win. Not everything went their way early in the game like it did last week against Kansas City, but they still won comfortably the way good teams do.

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Breaking Down The Steelers Season Through Four Weeks

Four games into the season and the Pittsburgh Steelers sit near the top of nearly everyone’s power rankings. The Steelers have scored the 6th most points in the league, trailing the Atlanta Falcons, San Diego Chargers, New Orleans Saints, and Carolina Panthers with 108 points scored. With a 3-1 record, the Steelers are tied with the their rival Baltimore Ravens for the AFC North lead. The AFC is loaded, with one 4-0 team in the Denver Broncos and five 3-1 teams in the New England Patriots, Houston Texans, Oakland Raiders, Ravens, and Steelers.

In their first primetime game of the season, the Steelers’ offense showed how potent it could really be. After serving a three-game suspension, Le’Veon Bell came back without any sign of rust, totaling 178 yards on a very good Chiefs defense, with 144 on the ground and 34 through the air. Ben Roethlisberger put the 34-3 Eagles loss behind him real quick, throwing for 300 yards and five touchdowns as he shredded the Chiefs in a 43-14 victory.

Mike Tomlin has to be happy with his offense so far. DeAngelo Williams was terrific filling in for Bell, rushing for 258 yards in three games as the Steelers’ primary running back. Williams’ mindset does not change, no matter how many snaps he gets. Williams has said, “There is no mindset change. I go in and work my ass off to be productive always. I was working just like I would be if I was the starting tailback, so nothing changed for me. When my number is called, nobody cares if I am a starter or not. You have to understand that in this league, we are all one play removed from being the starter or being the backup in any game.”

This is DeAngelo Williams’ 11th season in the league, and at 33-years old, he is defying the odds by producing this late in his career as a running back. Williams is able to produce in one of the best offenses in the league. Ben Roethlisberger is tied with Matt Ryan with 11 touchdown passes and now gets the luxury of throwing against the shaky New York Jets’ secondary.

Antonio Brown is once again proving he is one of the best receivers in the game. His numbers rank high amongst the league: he is tied for first with four touchdowns, his 45 targets are second behind Mike Evans, his 28 receptions are good for third, and his 369 receiving yards rank sixth. With the way Big Ben is slinging the ball, Antonio Brown is well on his way to another Pro Bowl season.

Mike Tomlin’s defense is playing better than their numbers indicate. They may rank 27th in total defense with 1,579 yards allowed, but they are helping support the Steelers’ point differential of +28. They have only allowed 313 rushing yards in four games, second fewest for teams that have been played four games. The Steelers need to vastly improve their pass-rush, as their five sacks ties for second to last in the league.

You can’t just discount the 34-3 trashing the Eagles handed to the Steelers, but other than that game, the Steelers have outscored their opponents 105-46. The next four opponents will be against AFC opponents, starting with the Jets at home, then visiting the Dolphins, followed by the Patriots at home in what could be a AFC Championship preview, and then their first matchup with the Ravens in Baltimore. The Steelers are like the NFL’s version of the Washington Nationals, always hyped up going into the season, they stay competitive, but always fall short of expectations.

Every Steelers fan has to be very happy with the way the Steelers are playing. If everyone stays healthy on offense, they have shown they have the potential to be the best offense in the NFL.


Eagles give Steelers a beating for the ages

It would be cute to say that the Steelers suffered their first crack of the 2016 season in the home of the Liberty Bell.

But the Eagles inflicted a hell of a lot more than a crack in their 34-3 win Sunday. So many young, innocent Steelers fans have never seen their team beaten so badly in their lifetime.

It’s fitting that in a city so rich with history the Steelers suffered a such a historic defeat.

Grizzled Steelers fans aren’t surprised that the Steelers (2-1) took their first loss at Philadelphia. They’re 0-9 there since 1965. Hey, Super Bowl-winning Steelers teams have had their unbeaten records spoiled visiting the Eagles, but not like this.

The 1979 Steelers were 4-0 and lost 17-14 at Veterans Stadium. The 2008 Steelers were 2-0 and fell 15-6 at Lincoln Financial Field.

Those were tolerable, hard-fought losses. The stink from Sunday’s loss, however, won’t go away any time soon.

The Steelers were supposed to average 30 points a game this season, not lose by 30.

In the first two weeks of the season, the Steelers averaged 31 points. On Sunday, they lost by 31.

In the first two weeks of the season, the Steelers mirrored the 2010 team, the last one to make the Super Bowl. They beat the Redskins by their widest road margin since 2010 and started 2-0 for the first time since that season.

On Sunday, the “first time since” nuggets drew some dubious historic parallels.

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Six takeaways from Steelers’ 24-16 win over Bengals

The Steelers defeated the Bengals 24-16 Sunday on a relatively peaceful, if rainy, afternoon at Heinz Field.

With Vontaze Burfict far outside Pittsburgh’s city limits, a shouting match between Antonio Brown and Karlos Dansby was about as heated as Sunday’s game would get.

It was so civil, in fact, that one of the teams could have called a radio station and dedicated “See You in September” to the other.

Even though these AFC North rivals play each other twice a year, this was just their fifth September meeting since 1993. The Steelers broke a streak of three straight September losses to the Bengals.

That quirky piece of historic data has little bearing on the fate of the 2016 Steelers, but among the takeaways from Sunday’s game is another parallel that just might be a sign of good things to come.

The Steelers are 2-0 for the first time since 2010

It’s going to feel weird not agonizing over a must-win game in September.

In four of the last five seasons, the Steelers entered Week 3 at 1-1 and needing a win to get over .500. In 2013, after a Week 2 loss at Cincinnati, they were desperately trying to climb out of an 0-2 hole.

This year, however, the Steelers checked off another box on the “Not Since 2010″ list by improving to 2-0. Last week, they turned in their largest margin of victory on the road since 2010. Now, they’re the first Steelers team to start a season 2-0 since the last Steelers team to reach the Super Bowl. The last Steelers team to win a Super Bowl, the 2008 squad, also started 2-0 but lost in Week 3 at Philadelphia.

Guess where the Steelers are going next week.

The Steelers haven’t won at Philadelphia in eight tries since 1965. In their most recent attempt, they lost 15-6 in 2008. Ben Roethlisberger was sacked eight times that day. That’s not likely to happen Sunday, which brings us to our next takeaway.

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Steelers rout Redskins, provide reason to believe Super Bowl hype

There are so many interesting ways to slice and dice the Steelers’ season-opening 38-16 win over the Redskins Monday night in Washington.

It was the Steelers’ sixth straight win over the Redskins. The last time the Redskins beat the Steelers was 1991, the year of their last championship.

It was the first time the Steelers won a prime time opener on the road since beating the Browns 43-0 in 1999. They had been 0-3 in such games since then.

It was just the Steelers’ second Week 1 victory in the last six years, and the first time they started the season with a convincing win since beating the visiting Texans 38-17 in 2008.

That was the year of the Steelers’ last championship. Of course it’s way too early to reserve rooms in Houston for Super Bowl LI, but so far there’s little reason to dispute the prognosticators who are picking the Steelers to get that far.

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Predictions (and quirky facts) for each 2016 Steelers game

It’s been almost eight months since Fitzgerald Toussaint’s fumble cost the Steelers a chance to go to New England for the AFC championship game.

After his team came within three minutes of beating the eventual Super Bowl champs without Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell, DeAngelo Williams and full use of Ben Roethlisberger’s right arm, Mike Tomlin was upbeat. In the immediate aftermath of that excruciating 23-16 playoff loss at Denver, Tomlin was looking forward to scouting and preparing for the draft.

It’s been an offseason full of optimism for the Steelers, and now the countdown to the season can be measured in hours rather than months, weeks and days. So let’s predict the outcome of each game on the Steelers’ 2016 schedule (with a few “Did You Know”s sprinkled in) as well as playoff games if they get there.

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