By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — Some believed that Ben Roethlisberger lost his fourth-quarter, comeback magic, but the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback came through again to pull out a 16-14 win against the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday at Heinz Field.
Roethlisberger got the ball with 6:33 remaining and the Steelers down by one. Willie Colon’s fourth holding penalty set the ball back on the club’s 18-yard line. The first big play was a 20-yard toss to Antonio Brown, who had seven catches for 86 yards. Roethlisberger also connected with Rashard Mendenhall for 15 yards. In his first game after offseason knee surgery, Mendenhall had two catches for 20 yards
On a third-and-four from the Philly 38, Roethlisberger hit Emmanuel Sanders for seven yards and a first down. Mendenhall, who tallied 81 yards and a touchdown on 14 rushes, ran five times to set up Shaun Suisham for the game-winning 34-yard field goal. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said Suisham’s range was pre-determined, so the light rain had no weight on the decision
Suisham was just glad to get an opportunity to win the game.
“I don’t have to hold it, and I don’t have to snap it,” Suisham said. “With Greg (long-snapper Warren) injured, it certainly does complicate your job a little bit. But everybody did a good job. You come out and kick a field goal and the game’s over, there’s nothing better.
“I’ve missed field goals before, but I never missed one of those (game-winning attempts). … I would hope they would have confidence in me in that situation. It’s certainly a kick I should make, and I made this one to win the game. Like I’ve said, there’s nothing better.”
Steelers running back Isaac Redman said that Mendenhall was uncertain how his knee would feel or how well he would perform in his first game since suffering a torn ACL in his right knee in last year’s regular-season finale. Mendenhall did not express a lack of confidence in his post-game comments.
“In the beginning, I felt comfortable, and I felt comfortable throughout the week,” Mendenhall said. “I just kept working hard to come back. … I guess Ben didn’t have anywhere to go (on the club’s only touchdown), so I was an outlet. In one-on-one situations like that, a running back wants to win those, and I was able to do that.”
After a penalty-filled, scoreless first quarter, Roethlisberger directed a 12-play, 75-yard scoring drive in 7:21. Mendenhall took a swing pass from and ran 13 yards for the score. It was ruled to be a lateral, ergo a run, but still a touchdown where Mendenhall juked Eagles rookie linebacker Mychal Kendricks out of his uniform and burst into the end zone.
The Steelers had several nice drives in the second half. Some stalled due to self-inflicted wounds, like nine penalties for 106 yards, while others were hampered by several dropped passes from Roethlisberger. Brown dropped a touchdown pass, but still had a nice game with his longest reception coming in the final drive.
“We played pretty good, but we still haven’t played a full game,” Brown said. “And we still left some plays out there. I definitely left a couple plays out there, but we were able to get three field goals and one touchdown, which were enough to win the game.”
Brown’s two gaffs came during one series, the one which ended the first half with a 20-yard Suisham field goal. First, Brown dropped a bomb from Roethlisberger in the end zone. He also lost his shoe and cut to the middle, instead of taking it outside for an apparently easy TD. Roethlisberger found Jerricho Cotchery open inside the 3, and he should have walked in but tripped on the 2-yard line and fell short to force Suisham’s field goal.
It was amazing that the Steelers defense held the Eagles to 246 total yards, while rolling to 343 with 136 rushing, considering the club lost two defensive starters in Troy Polamalu (strained right calf again) and LaMarr Woodley (right hamstring again), which caused him to miss half of last season. Tomlin said the severity of the injuries were not known, but since the club is on a short week (playing Thursday at Tennessee) it’s probably not a good sign for them.
James Harrison (left knee), who has hardly practiced since last season ended and missed three games, started and did not come off the field.
“James is another guy that’s highly conditioned,” Tomlin said. “He’s in the building on off days working on conditioning. … It became evident that he was game-ready from a conditioning standpoint. It was a tight ball game, and we needed his services.”
The Steelers were fortunate that their subs were fairly solid, with the exception of Ryan Mundy for Polamalu. He had another head-shot on a wideout and was called for a 15-yard personal foul penalty. Ryan Clark also had one. Both should expect repeat-offender fines this week. Clark for last season, and Mundy for the second straight game.
“We played hard,” nose tackle Steve McLendon said. “We had some guys injured and some other guys who needed a break, so that opened things up for guys to step up and perform. We did that and got the job done.”
McLendon, playing for Casey Hampton, and Jason Worilds, in for Woodley, each had a sack of Michael Vick. He was sacked three times — Ziggy Hood had the other — and fumbled three times, while recovering one. DeSean Jackson also fumbled for the Eagles. Clark, Keenan Lewis, McLendon and Lawrence Timmons all forced fumbles, while Larry Foote had both recoveries.
Timmons played his best game this season with nine tackles, including eight solo stops, two tackles behind the line and two quarterback hurries. Roethlisberger didn’t have his best completion percentage, but he threw for 207 yards (21-for-37) and was not sacked. He also did not throw a touchdown and was not picked off.
Roethlisberger gave credit to his offensive line, which held up despite the holding calls and even right tackle Marcus Gilbert hobbled a bit with a groin injury. He came out briefly for 2012 second-round pick Mike Adams, but said he was fine. He just took a break to be ready for the fourth-quarter drive.
“I’m good, really,” Gilbert said. “Mike came in and did a good job, and I went right back in there after that and had a good last drive. We wanted to run it all the way into the end zone there, but we got close enough for Suisham.”
Notes: The Steelers are 10-1 at Heinz Field and 15-6 overall against NFC teams under Tomlin. … Mendenhall’s touchdown run was his 30th, just two behind Terry Bradshaw and five behind Kordell Stewart in his career. … Franco Harris leads with 91, while Jerome Bettis had 78 in his Steelers career. … Heath Miller has 356 catches, just two behind Louis Lipps, for third place overall. Hines Ward (1,000) and John Stallworth (537).