It was vintage Ben Roethlisberger on Sunday afternoon.
The Pittsburgh Steelers’ franchise quarterback led the offense on a 14-play, 64-yard drive to set up the game-winning field goal by Shaun Suisham.
Though it was not pretty, the win over the Philadelphia Eagles kept the Steelers in the AFC North race, as they raised their record to 2-2.
The win came minus a couple of stars as well.
In the first quarter, Troy Polamalu left the game after he re-injured his right calf, and LaMarr Woodley was not far behind after injuring his hamstring in the second quarter.
That did not matter. The defense held the Eagles to only 14 points—aided in part by borderline penalties to Ike Taylor and Ryan Mundy—and the offense did just enough to squeak by the team’s in-state rival.
Despite the win, there are a number of questions that the Steelers have leaving this game, but it was not without its stars either.
After failing to lead his team to fourth-quarter victories against the Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders, Ben Roethlisberger consumed the final 6:33 of the game and engineered his 25th fourth-quarter comeback.
Though his stat line wasn’t impressive, Roethlisberger did exactly what he needed to do to win the game. He was able to escape pressure to make plays with his arm and legs, and he did not make any crucial mistakes.
Roethlisberger threw for only 207 yards on 21-of-37 passing but did not have much help from his receivers, who dropped several passes.
It was not all on the receivers. Roethlisberger missed some throws, too, including one to Heath Miller along the sidelines that he should have connected on.
In the end, it is his job to win football games, and that is exactly what he did.
After Polamalu and Woodley left the game, the defense could have stumbled—and they almost did in the fourth quarter.
Rather than completely collapsing, the defense held strong, limiting LeSean McCoy to only 53 yards on 16 carries and forcing two turnovers.
Lawrence Timmons created one of those, forcing Michael Vick to fumble. He was also pressuring Vick for much of the day.
In a change from the previous three games, Timmons was very active at and behind the line of scrimmage and made a number of stops that he hasn’t made in what seems like two seasons.
These are the types of “splash plays” that Mike Tomlin expects from his top defenders.
While Timmons made some outstanding plays, he also missed a sack and over-pursued the play on several occasions, which resulted in missed tackles.
The difference between this week and previous weeks is that Timmons’ bad plays were overshadowed by good plays that he actually made.
Even with his misses, Timmons was the biggest playmaker on defense with nine tackles—including two for a loss—and two hits on the quarterback.
One man can’t improve the running game when the offensive line isn’t blocking, right?
Not quite. Rashard Mendenhall did just that.
In his first game back after injuring his ACL last season, Mendenhall was outstanding, rushing for 81 yards on 14 carries.
Mendenhall’s longest carry went for 17 yards, and he had a 13-yard touchdown run.
In addition to his work on the ground, Roethlisberger was able to get the ball to Mendenhall in the air as well, connecting with him on two passes for 20 yards.
Mendenhall’s impact cannot be understated, as the Steelers’ pass offense was not as crisp as it has been in previous weeks.
His 5.8 yards per carry average dwarfed the team’s season average, which was less than 3.0 yards per carry.
Without Mendenhall on Sunday, the Steelers likely lose. He was excellent in his first game back and was one of the major reasons the Steelers won.
For those reasons, he earns the game ball for the victory over the Eagles.