STEELERS – WEDNESDAY
By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — Even with a little perspective some three days after the Pittsburgh Steelers were eliminated from playoff contention with a 16-13 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said Wednesday afternoon that he’s still struggling with it and needs to go out with a victory.
The Steelers (7-8) play host to the Cleveland Browns (5-10) in the final regular-season game for both Sunday at 1 p.m. at Heinz Field. Five Steelers losses this season were by three points each, and a failed comeback usually punctuated each one as well.
“If I knew (why), we would have fixed it,” Roethlisberger said. “A lot of it just has to do with me not playing well enough down the stretch. Fourth-quarter drives or last-minute throws, just not making it happen, so my best answer would be that I just didn’t play well enough. (So), in the past, I prided myself and us in fourth-quarter comebacks.
“I’ve always said that you don’t want to have them, because that means you haven’t done well early in the game, but we’ve always been good at it. And this year, we just weren’t. I don’t think there’s any rhyme or reason why, (but) it was just a year when I wasn’t.
“I really don’t think there’s any reason to go panic about it,” Roethlisberger added, “because I’ve been pretty good for eight years doing it and had one not so good year on it. I think I played pretty good football, though, other than those situations. So, there’s not going to be any panic. And I know that this offseason, when it gets here, will be a focus on keep striving to get better.”
For many, Roethlisberger believed the push toward next season begins now. That’s why he wants to start and play as much as possible against the Browns, even though the game is meaningless as far as the post-season is concerned. It’s another opportunity to work with Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley.
“I think (Haley’s system) works for us,” Roethlisberger said. “When we’re executing, I think it works. … We need to continue to grow, and we need to get better every week. (And) we need to get better and grow in this offseason in all aspects. Our run game, our pass game and every position needs to get better.”
Roethlisberger was asked about his and the team’s recurring injuries this season, and his patent answer generally was that he didn’t want to make any excuses. He admitted that injuries can be a reason for a lack of success, if not used as an excuse, and that he and his teammates hoped there weren’t as many during the next season.
Roethlisberger lost three games to injury this season during a time when he was playing extremely well and on pace to break his single-season passing records.
“Injuries are never fun, obviously, but you know me,” Roethlisberger said. “I won’t make excuses. I wanted to step up and perform afterward just as well as I did before the injury. Obviously, as you progress throughout a season, everybody’s a little bit injured and a little bit banged up.
“So, you never feel as good as you were early in the season. Every week you get a little more banged up, but you’ll never get any excuses from me. … The playoffs and Super Bowl are always our goals, but one of mine coming in was to never be below .500. So, we want to try to avoid a losing season at all costs.”
“We want to finish strong, and I want to finish strong,” Roethlisberger added. “So, I’m going to go out there and give it my all. I’m not going to quit on this team or this franchise or the fans. So, I’m going to give it all I’ve got, and I think everybody in this locker room feels the same way.”
Roethlisberger believed this game means a lot to the players, so he won’t quit on them or the Steelers fans, because “we at least owe it to them to fight all the way to the finish.” And maybe he and a certain speedy wideout could perform well enough for the Steelers to consider keeping that combination intact.
“We hope so,” Roethlisberger said. “We all want to put on a big show, and I think we all want to go out and play our best. Obviously, every year, we want to have everybody back. We know that never happens, but we want to continue on. I think we’ve got a great group of guys. I know who you’re talking about, and I hope he’s back.
“I know the competitiveness in myself, and I know it in a lot of the guys around here. I think we know what we have, what we can have, and how good we can be. It’s hard for us to sit here and look at next year, because we still have a game left, but we’re going to try to start next year and next season with this week.”
Notes: The Steelers placed tight end Heath Miller (right knee), cornerback Ike Taylor (ankle) and running back Baron Batch (right arm). … To fill the roster spots, Pittsburgh signed tight end Jamie McCoy, safety Damon Cromartie-Smith and linebacker Marshall McFadden. All three spent time on the team’s practice squad in 2012. … McCoy will wear 82, Cromartie-Smith will wear 42, and McFadden will wear 40. … Additionally, the Steelers signed defensive back Walter McFadden and wide receiver Bert Reed to their practice squad.