Ben Roethlisberger’s 18th NFL season started with a significant career milestone. By virtue of the Steelers’ come-from-behind victory over the Bills, Roethlisberger moved past Dan Marino and into fourth place in career game-winning drives. Sunday marked the 48th game-winning drive of Roethlisberger’s career.
Roethlisberger trails only Peyton Manning (54), Drew Brees (53) and Tom Brady (49) in career game-winning drives, via Pro Football Focus and Ed Bouchette of The Athletic. Roethlisberger’s 5-yard touchdown pass to Diontae Johnson four minutes into the fourth quarter completed his 48th game-winning drive. The score was part of four scores by Pittsburgh’s offense in the second half of Sunday’s 23-16 victory. Pittsburgh’s second half success on offense came after the unit failed to score while gaining just 54 total yards in the first half.
“I’m proud of the guys because they didn’t really, I hate to use a coach Tomlin-ism, they didn’t blink,” Roethlisberger said following Sunday’s game. “They stood up in the face of not playing well. We didn’t make the big mistake either, that was huge. We didn’t do what we wanted to do, but we didn’t turn the ball over, we didn’t do anything catastrophic. The fact that you come in at halftime, it wasn’t like there was a big rah rah, no one really spoke or acted crazy. It was just, ‘OK, this is what we’re going to do in the second half, let’s go do it.'”
Can Big Ben return to glory? Will Najee Harris rush for 1,000 yards in his rookie season? Get the latest Steelers scoop from Bryan DeArdo, our local expert who’s on the ground in Pittsburgh, by downloading the CBS Sports app. If you already have the app, favorite the Steelers to get up-to-the-second news.
After a shaky start, Roethlisberger received better protection from his offensive line (which featured two rookies in left tackle Dan Moore Jr. and center Kendrick Green) in the second half. He connected on several key completions to Johnson, Smith-Schuster, Chase Claypool and rookie tight end Pat Freiermuth. Johnson was able to corral Roethlisberger’s pass in the end zone after it was initially deflected by Bills cornerback Levi Wallace.
“He’s a phenomenal football player,” Roethlisberger said of Johnson, who led the Steelers with five receptions on Sunday. “He’s a guy who is an incredible talent. … His ball skills are through the roof.”
The Steelers also didn’t move away from their running game. While he gained just 45 yards on 16 carries, rookie Najee Harris’ 18-yard run set up Roethlisberger’s touchdown pass to Johnson.
“It’s a great learning experience, really, because there were a lot of rookies playing,” Harris said following Sunday’s game. “Me, Pat, we’ve got Dan, KG on the offensive side. It was a good learning experience for us to play against a really good team and finish the way we did. There’s a lot of stuff we’ve got to work on. Me personally, there’s a lot of things I can work on. But it’s always good to come out with a win.”
This isn’t the first time Roethlisberger’s name has been linked with Marino. A Pittsburgh-area native, Marino had two of his rookie records broken by Roethlisberger broken during Roethlisberger’s rookie season. Marino went 7-2 as a rookie before leading the Dolphins to the Super Bowl during his second season. Roethlisberger went 12-0 as a starter in 2004 before leading Pittsburgh to its fifth Super Bowl title in 2005.
Marino, who did a TV interview with Roethlisberger in the midst of his record-setting rookie season, forecasted a successful future for the then 22-year-old quarterback.
“The thing that’s most impressive about Ben is his awareness in the pocket, his pocket presence and his ability to move inside the pocket and still make throws down the field,” Marino said of Roethlisberger in 2004, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “You can’t teach that, that’s kind of instinct. That’s something he has going for him that a lot of guys today don’t have.
“The other thing that’s impressive is that he’s not turning the ball over. That’s the biggest thing as far as young quarterbacks are concerned that you have to deal with and worry about. He pretty much played a perfect game the other day where he made the throws he had to make and they’re running the ball, getting first downs at the end of the game and controlling the clock. It was a great thing to watch.”
Roethlisberger is closing in on another significant milestone. He is three touchdown passes away from becoming the eighth player to throw 400 touchdown passes.