I thought I had done everything right.
I definitely didn't trash talk. How could I with the way that our coach had been acting all season? Rex Ryan runs his mouth to take the pressure off of his players and puts it all on his own shoulders. As a consequence, the things he says and does are mocked back to Jets fans by fans of the other teams whenever we falter.
I didn't get over-confident. I knew that this was the best Jets team of my lifetime. That we have a human shadow named Darrelle Revis who has a chance to go down as the greatest cornerback to ever play the game. That we have a dominant offensive line, two great running backs, and three receivers who can make plays. But I also knew that our offensive coordinator, Brian Schottenheimer, can be a liability, and that before Week 15 the Jets were 0-7 all time in the Steel City.
I even tried to boost some good karma in the Jets direction. On our way to the supermarket, my buddy rolled down the window and gave money to a soliciting homeless woman. After buying some food for the game, we stopped at the Girl Scouts table just outside the store and each bought a box of cookies. Then, on our way to the house where we were going to watch the Jets-Stelers rematch, my buddy noticed a sad-looking homeless man, and slipped him a dollar, too.
Surely Ben Roethlisberger and his drunken sexual exploits would be no match for a few dollars of purely charitable good karma.
If you had to win just one game, which active QB would you take?
The next thing I knew it was 24-0 Steelers and I had my face in my palms, wondering how it had all happened to us again. Could Girl Scouts and homeless people be evil? Had my good deeds gone unnoticed?
No. Very simply, this time, the answer to the Jets woes was the play of Ben Roethlisberger.
Love him or hate him, the man is a playmaker. If you look only at the numbers, its easy to say that Roethlisberger (10-19, 133 yds, 2 INT, 1 Rush TD) was bested by the younger Mark Sanchez (20-33, 233 yds, 2 TD) last Sunday. But Big Ben isn't and likely won't ever be all about the stats.
Ben Roethlisberger finds ways to keep plays alive. It appears as if he has eyes in the front, back and side of his head. The Steelers depleted offensive line has been stout in the running game, but its pass protection over the last third of the season has been abysmal. Roethlisberger was under constant pressure from the Jets defense, saw multiple fronts on every series, and faced blitzes one would have trouble detecting even in a darkened film room with a pause button.
Somehow, Ben constantly avoided blitzing defenders like Harry Houdini, got into open space, and either ran for a first down or found a curling receiver who had finally shook his coverage. How he escapes pressure sometimes leaves fans with their mouths agape, in complete shock that a person as big as Ben could move around so instinctually even as chaos surrounds him.
Ben Roethlisberger finds ways to keep drives alive. Take his scramble on 3rd-and-12 on the opening drive of the game where he had the awareness to roll out and slide for the first down marker as two defenders pursued. This was the first of four first down rushes for Big Ben, helping setup Rashard Mendenhall's one-yard TD run to get Pittsburgh off to a fast start instead of settling for a field goal.
When Ben Roethlisberger has a chance to put the game away, he makes the most of it. With three minutes to go and the ball in their hands, the Steelers knew they'd need two first downs to clinch the game. Ben found Heath Miller and Andre Brown on separate, perfectly thrown 14-yard strikes, the latter of which to Brown was made while running full speed to the sideline away from pressure, on 3rd-and-6. Miss that one, and the Jets get another chance to beat you. For Steelers fans, there was never any doubt.
Ben Roethlisberger defies his statistics. NFL legends will tell you that great Quarterbacks are defined by their success in big moments; third downs, fourth quarters, two minute drills, playoff games, and most importantly, Super Bowls. If you succeed in these moments and your team wins, nothing else matters.
Just 28 years old, Roethlisberger has already won two rings, and has the chance to win a third. Aaron Rodgers may want the title belt, but if Big Ben can win the game, and an MVP, he'll put himself in position to take the title of "Greatest Quarterback of All Time" by the end of his career. He's really already that close.
Maybe we should take notice.