Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger says he wasn’t rusty heading into lackluster opener
On the heels of a five-turnover performance in the season opener, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has an elbow injury that could limit him in practice this week.
“Just the bumps and bruises associated with play,” coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday at his weekly press conference. “We’ll see how he is (Wednesday) morning and let that be our guide. It’s just full disclosure for my part because I know that you guys will ask.”
Roethlisberger threw three interceptions and lost two fumbles in the 21-21 tie Sunday against the Cleveland Browns.
Roethlisberger’s ragged performance came after he played sparingly in the preseason – as has been the custom in recent years.
Roethlisberger started the third preseason game and logged 26 snaps. He completed 11 of 18 attempts for 114 yards and a touchdown. That was his only preseason activity.
But Roethlisberger said rust was not a factor against the Browns.
“I don’t think so,” Roethlisberger said Tuesday on his 93.7-FM weekly radio segment.
All three interceptions came in the first half when he had a 35.1 passer rating. On the first interception, Roethlisberger threw into double coverage for Antonio Brown, and a third defender, rookie corner Denzel Ward, jumped in front of Brown for the pick.
“I think the first interception was me getting a little anxious to get the ball to AB on a little rollout,” Roethlisberger said. “The guy made a great play. That one may be feel-of-the-game speed stuff compared to practice.”
Roethlisberger’s second interception was on a deep pass to Brown. Roethlisberger’s throw went one direction, Brown broke broke the other way.
“It was a play we hadn’t really practiced, but we wanted to take a shot,” Roethlisberger said. “It was one of those ones where AB was 40-50 yards downfield, so I have to anticipate his angle before he gets to the angle. … That’s an unfortunate thing, but it has nothing to do with preseason reps.”
The third interception was a pass that deflected off tight end Jesse James fingers and was picked off by Ward. It came while the Steelers were running the hurry-up offense late in the half.
“They brought more guys than we could block,” Roethlisberger said. “I saw it. Jesse saw it. I threw it, it went through his hands. More playing time doesn’t affect those things.”
Two days after the game, Roethlisberger was still trying to process the 21-21 tie.
“It’s crazy to think about,” he said. “You heard the adage win, lose or draw, and you don’t think about that draw too often.”
Roethlisberger also said the quarterback sneak called in the fourth quarter – the first by Roethlisberger in three seasons – was not a jab at former offensive coordinator Todd Haley, who didn’t like having his quarterback run those short-yardage plays.
“It was called on the sideline,” he said. “They called the play, there was no discussing it. We talked about it all week in practice. They gave us a specific look.”
Roethlisberger said he only spoke briefly to Haley, who joined the Browns after spending six seasons with the Steelers.
“It was a very quick talk after the game,” Roethlisberger said. “There were so many people out there, so we didn’t have a chance to have a long conversation.”
Roethlisberger also gained 15 yards on a scramble, throwing a stiff-arm as he went out of bounds. He chalked it up to his commitment to offseason conditioning.
“For the first time in a couple years the guys weren’t making fun of the way I was running,” Roethlisberger said. “I’m no way fast, but they said I looked kind of fast. I took it as a compliment. … I was proud of all the working out I’ve been doing.”
Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @tribjoerutter.