All Smiles in Pittsburgh
Ben Roethlisberger might not expect to do nearly as much running this week.
One week after his scrambling keyed a comeback victory, Roethlisberger hopes to have an easier time Sunday when his Pittsburgh Steelers face one of the league's worst defenses in a road game against the struggling New York Jets.
Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Pittsburgh -10 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Sunday's game, the over/under has been set at 40 total points (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 78% of bets for this game have been placed on Pittsburgh -10 (View NFL Football bet percentages).
Roethlisberger used his arm and legs to lead the Steelers (7-2) to a dramatic 31-28 victory over Cleveland last Sunday.
The fourth-year quarterback scrambled 30 yards for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter, and his 10-yard run set up a short scoring pass to Heath Miller with 3:13 left. That TD gave Pittsburgh its first lead after trailing by as many as 15 points, and the Steelers only came away with their third straight win after the Browns missed a 52-yard field goal attempt with 6 seconds remaining.
Roethlisberger had a career-high 49 rushing yards and completed 23 of 34 passes for 278 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, six days after throwing five TD passes in a 38-7 rout of Baltimore.
"Ben, he just keeps getting better and better," Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward said after making seven catches for 80 yards and a touchdown against the Browns.
Scrambling so frequently might not be as necessary for Roethlisberger this week, facing a Jets defense which has only nine sacks - tied for fewest in the league. Plus, New York (1-8) is ranked 30th in the league in total defense, allowing 386.6 yards per game, and is giving up an average of 25.3 points to rank 27th.
Pittsburgh's defense, on the other hand, leads the league in both categories, allowing 14.0 points and 248.2 yards per game. That does not bode well for a Jets team which is 2-16 all-time against the Steelers, including a 20-17 playoff loss in 2005 in the most recent meeting.
That victory came during the Steelers' run to the Super Bowl, and even though he won a championship that season, Roethlisberger only recently has begun to get mentioned as one of the NFL's elite signal-callers. His 110.2 passer rating ranks second in the league to Tom Brady (131.8), and he's completed 66.1 percent of his passes for 2,020 yards, 22 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Roethlisberger also has helped Pittsburgh move two games ahead of second-place Cleveland in the AFC North and tie Indianapolis for the second-best record in the conference.
"All I ever hear is about Brady and Peyton (Manning), but this guy we have here is very special," Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel said. "He makes plays those guys don't make and that's what makes him so special. He can get out of the pocket, he can create, he's a beast and we're glad he wears black and gold."
Roethlisberger is not too concerned about being considered on the same level with Brady and Manning.
"Maybe someday I'd like it if I feel I'm up there with them," Roethlisberger said. "But for now, let people talk about them. I'd rather talk about the Steelers."
One area of concern for Pittsburgh this week should be special teams, which has allowed three of the 15 touchdowns scored by opponents, including a 100-yard kickoff return last weekend. The coverage unit is 27th on kickoffs (26.0 yards per return) and 23rd on punts (10.5 ypr).
"One thing is for certain: We stink on kickoff coverage," first-year Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said.
Pittsburgh will be challenged by the Jets' Leon Washington, who averages a league-best 33.5 yards on kick returns, including three for touchdowns.
"The football gods are always kind to you," Tomlin said. "When you're struggling in an area, we get presented with the opportunity to defend against the best guy in the world at returning kicks right now. This game is about challenges and about responding, and I look forward to see what we're willing to do in that area this week."
New York comes off its bye week looking to halt a six-game losing streak, its longest since a seven-game slide from Oct. 16-Dec. 4, 2005.
"We need to come out and try to get a win, not try to play spoiler," Jets safety Kerry Rhodes said. "If you try to play the role of spoiler, that kind of depicts you as a loser. You don't want to say we want to spoil their season because they're having a good season and we aren't. We have to try and get a win because we want to win and we need a win."
The Jets hope Kellen Clemens can build on a strong effort in their 23-20 overtime loss to Washington on Nov. 4 in his first game since being named the full-time starting quarterback in place of Chad Pennington. Clemens, New York's second-round draft pick in 2006, went 23-of-42 for 226 yards and a touchdown, and gained 48 yards on seven carries.
"There's no questioning the heart or the desire or the work ethic of this team," Clemens said. "We're just falling short."
By: Staff Writers - Email Us
More NFL Football coverage from theSpread.com
- Las Vegas Hilton Contest
- NFL public betting chart
- NFL teams
- NFL standings
- NFL schedule
- NFL injuries
- NFL matchups
- NFL stats
- NFL odds
- NFL news wire
- NFL top stories
- Accuscore NFL predictions
- NFL scoreboard
- Expert NFL Picks
- NFL trends
- Comments and discussion
- Signup for theSpread.com daily newsletter
- NFL Home