The Pittsburgh Steelers desperately needed a win Sunday to stay in the hunt for a playoff spot. Like he’s done so often in his career, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger engineered what proved to be a game-winning drive as the Steelers held off the Baltimore Ravens for a comeback win, 20-19.
The victory brought Pittsburgh’s record to 6-5-1 and kept it in eighth place in the AFC, just on the outside of the seven-team playoff picture, with five regular-season games left to play.
“God is good,” Roethlisberger told CBS following the game. “This is how it’s supposed to be. This is what this game always is and why this game is so much fun, why this rivalry is what it is. I’m just so proud of the guys, the way they stepped up. We had guys go down, guys step up.”
"This game is unbelievable… Winning in front of these fans in this place is just special."
— NFL on CBS 🏈 (@NFLonCBS) December 6, 2021
Amid rumors this week that this will be his final year in the NFL, the 39-year-old Roethlisberger looked like his vintage self on the offense’s final drive of the game. Trailing 13-12, Roethlisberger led the Steelers on an 11-play, 69-yard drive that took up 4:33 of the game’s final 6:21, which was capped off by a five-yard touchdown pass to Diontae Johnson to give the Steelers an 18-13 lead. Roethlisberger then found tight end Pat Freiermuth for a two-point conversion to give his team a 20-13 lead.
The Ravens responded by scoring a touchdown with 16 seconds left and elected to go for two to win the game. Quarterback Lamar Jackson’s pass, however, was just out of reach for tight end Mark Andrews, and the Steelers held on for the win. Roethlisberger said it was a big response for his team, which lost 41-10 to the Cincinnati Bengals last week.
“This game’s unbelievable,” Roethlisberger told CBS. “This rivalry — to do this in front of the fans after last week. To come out here at home, winning in front of these fans at this place is just special. We love the fans and want to do it for them. Like I said, God is good, and we’re glad we could get a win.”
Roethlisberger announced earlier this year that he’d be back this season — his 18th in the NFL — after the Steelers lost to the Cleveland Browns, 48-37, in the wild-card round of last season’s playoffs. That loss didn’t sit well with him, as his three first-half interceptions contributed to the Browns jumping out to a 28-0 lead.
He ended up throwing for 501 yards and completing 47 of 68 passes (both career highs) and four touchdowns, but his four total interceptions were too much for the Steelers to overcome. He took the blame for the loss, and many questioned at the time if that was it for Roethlisberger.
“It’s going to start between me and God, a lot of praying,” Roethlisberger said of his decision about his future. “And then a lot of it is talking with my family — discussions, decisions. I still have a year left on my contract. I hope the Steelers still want me back, if that’s the way we go. There will be a lot of discussions, but now is not the time for that.”
Though he missed most of the 2019 season due to an elbow injury and his body has taken its share of hits over the years, the Steelers wanted him back because of his leadership, both on the field and in the locker room. He’s become a spiritual mentor for players, as detailed in the Fall 2020 edition of Sports Spectrum Magazine. Steelers chaplain Kent Chevalier talked about Roethlisberger’s influence.
“We’re discussing a passage and you’ve got dudes who are just at their locker, who are not followers of Christ, who are not interested at all, but they’re overhearing the conversation of their veteran players, their guys [in the Bible study]. Ben has been a part of those Bible studies and they’re hearing him share his perspective, his faith in those settings,” Chevalier said.
Opening up about his faith is a journey Roethlisberger had begun about three years earlier when he decided to get baptized.
“Three years ago I got baptized,” Roethlisberger said during a June 2020 ManUp Conference. “I was baptized as a kid; my parents took me as a baby. But I didn’t make that decision. So three years ago now I made the decision to be baptized because I felt like I needed to do that. I wanted to have a closer walk, a better relationship with Jesus, with my wife, with my kids, with my family — become a better person.
“So I think the person that brought me to Him was Jesus. Jesus is the One who brought me back to Him, and I’m so thankful for it because I feel I’m a better Christian, a better husband and a better father today because of His forgiveness of me.”
As for what his plans are following the 2021 season, Roethlisberger isn’t quite ready to say. But moments like Sunday night are what keep him coming back for more.
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) December 6, 2021
“You should always savor moments like this,” he told reporters following the game. “I try and reiterate that to guys, whether you’re in your first year, your fifth year, your 20th year, you should always appreciate this moment. God has blessed me in an amazing way that I can throw a football like not many people in the world can, and guys can run and catch and do things that not many people can.
“We should always count our blessings that we’re able to do this. You never know when it’s going to be taken from you, as we unfortunately have seen. I just think that we all should take advantage of these opportunities — win, lose or draw — to just be appreciative of the opportunities we get out here to play football.”
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