Published: Friday, October 6, 2006
Big Ben is checking his list twice
PITTSBURGH (AP) Turns out David Letterman isn't the only guy with a Top 10 list. Ben Roethlisberger has one, too.
Roethlisberger's list isn't as witty or comical as Letterman's unless, of course, the slapstick-like offensive play of the winless Oakland Raiders is taken into account. It exists only in his mind, and it includes the 10 teams that passed him over in the 2004 draft.
San Diego. Oakland. Arizona. New York Giants. Washington. Cleveland. Detroit. Atlanta. Jacksonville. Houston.
Roethlisberger, the No. 11 pick that year, led the Pittsburgh Steelers to a Super Bowl championship in only his second year as a starter even before No. 4 pick Philip Rivers was starting in San Diego.
Roethlisberger believed then, and still does, that he was better than the other two quarterbacks on the list, No. 1 Eli Manning and Rivers. The only way to prove it, he told himself, would be to beat the teams that passed him over.
"Anybody who was in the top 10, I kind of like to play against," said Roethlisberger, who goes against the Chargers on Sunday night. "It feels good."
First loss at Jacksonville
Until a 9-0 loss in Jacksonville last month, Roethlisberger was 9-0 against his personal top 10 list, with three victories against the Browns. He beat Manning's Giants late in his rookie season, and beat the Chargers 24-22 last season when Drew Brees was starting ahead of Rivers.
Roethlisberger isn't trying to make this you-snubbed-me list into a personal vendetta, but instead goes into games against the teams that passed him with a smidgen more motivation to win. Kind of like Bengals receiver Chad Johnson does with his list of opposing cornerbacks.
"It'll be a little added incentive," Roethlisberger said.
Doesn't stop at one
The Steelers quarterback doesn't cross a team off the list once he beats it, either.
"We played them [the Chargers] last year and got to beat them and that was fun, but I want to keep doing it," he said. "I don't want to just do it once. I want to beat every team every time we play them."
What's interesting is that had Rivers and Roethlisberger been available when the Steelers drafted No. 11, they likely would have taken Rivers. The Steelers, like most NFL clubs, had Rivers rated higher than Roethlisberger partly because Rivers played at North Carolina State in the Atlantic Coast Conference, while Roethlisberger played for Miami of Ohio in the Mid-American Conference.
While Rivers and Roethlisberger talk occasionally, they have never discussed what might have happened had they swapped draft positions.
"I got the impression that, if not San Diego, then Pittsburgh," Rivers said. "That was all ifs and buts, and you never know. Who knew how it was going to unfold?"
Struggling this year
This season, Roethlisberger's own performance and not any list should be incentive enough for him to play better. The Steelers (1-2) have dropped two in a row since Roethlisberger returned to the lineup following his appendicitis attack the week of their opener. He has not begun to resemble the player who led the Steelers to three consecutive road victories in the AFC playoffs.
Roethlisberger is 27-6 as a starter, counting the playoffs, and has never lost three in a row since becoming a starter two years ago. But he has yet to throw a TD pass, has tossed five interceptions, and holds a passer rating of 34.3 that is the second lowest among AFC quarterbacks.
Rivers is No. 5 with a 96.9 rating, but has fewer attempts (68) in three games for the Chargers (2-1) than Roethlisberger (71) does in two. He also has fewer interceptions, throwing only one.
Roethlisberger will be challenged by a Chargers defense that is No. 1 in the league overall (184.3 yards per game) and against the pass (118.3 yards).
"But I don't care about what those other guys are doing," Roethlisberger said. "All that matters to me are the Pittsburgh Steelers and that we need to start winning football games."
Missed lots of playing time
Roethlisberger hasn't been as sharp as normal, possibly because he missed workout time following his June 12 motorcycle accident and again after his appendectomy Sept. 3. He also didn't get in his usual work with top receiver Hines Ward, who missed most of training camp with an injured hamstring.
"The wide receivers, we have to help him out, we have to bail him out," Ward said. "Yes, the ball may not be perfect, it may be high or low or whatever, but that's what they pay us to do, make the catches."
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