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Steelers Sidestep Roethlisberger

Times Staff Writer

The record book will show that Ben Roethlisberger on Sunday became the youngest winning quarterback in Super Bowl history.

What it won’t show is that the Pittsburgh Steelers won almost in spite of the fallow Roethlisberger, whose 22.6 passer rating didn’t even match his age and was the lowest ever for a winning Super Bowl quarterback.

“When you think about the Super Bowl, you imagine yourself coming out and playing your best football, but it wasn’t that way,” said Roethlisberger, who will turn 24 next month. “I couldn’t get it done throwing the football, for whatever reason, so we ran the ball a lot and I threw a block in there.”

Roethlisberger overthrew receivers. He under-threw receivers.

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Two of his passes were intercepted, one in the third quarter that not only killed a drive that almost certainly would have resulted in a score but also was returned 76 yards, leading to the Seattle Seahawks’ only touchdown in a 21-10 Steeler victory.

On a night when Steeler wide receiver and former Indiana quarterback Antwaan Randle El upstaged his quarterback by making the prettiest pass of the game, a 43-yard completion to Hines Wards for a fourth-quarter touchdown, Roethlisberger completed only nine of 21 passes for 123 yards and no touchdowns.

“That’s usually a recipe for disaster,” he said.

But not this time.

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That’s because he had done just enough to give the Steelers a chance to win, and his teammates had done the rest in a 21-10 victory over the Seahawks.

Or, as an appreciative Roethlisberger said afterward of his celebrating teammates, “They’re not my supporting cast. I’m their supporting cast.”

After carrying the sixth-seeded Steelers to the AFC championship, leading them to playoff victories at Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Denver last month against the conference’s top three seeded teams, Roethlisberger had seemed loose and ready to continue a string of clutch performances that belied his youth.

But this was the Super Bowl, the game’s biggest stage.

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“This was probably the most nervous I’ve ever been before any professional football game,” said Roethlisberger, who has been a pro for all of two seasons.

It showed at the start, the Steelers failing to make a first down until the second quarter -- on an eight-yard pass from Roethlisberger to Randle El. Two plays later, a Roethlisberger pass was intercepted by Michael Boulware.

But he had his moments.

Later in the second quarter, he shoveled a third-and-six pass to Ward for a 12-yard gain and, on a third-and-28 play, scrambled to buy time. Tiptoeing near the line of scrimmage so as not to cross it, he found Ward on the opposite side of the field for a 37-yard gain, then scored the Steelers’ first touchdown on a one-yard dive. But even the pass to Ward could have been better, he said.

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“If I would have thrown it a little harder,” he said, “I would have gotten him a touchdown. But he made a great play coming back for it.”

In the third quarter, after Willie Parker had scored on a 75-yard run to give the Steelers a 14-3 lead, they seemed on the verge of scoring again and putting the game away before Roethlisberger’s third-and-six pass at the Seahawk seven was intercepted by Kelly Herndon and returned 76 yards.

“That was one where my mind was telling me to throw it over the top and my arm didn’t,” he said.

“I read it perfectly but just didn’t make the throw I needed to make. If I could take it back, I would.”

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His best plays were made with his feet, such as his fourth-quarter run for a first down that enabled the Steelers to hang onto the ball as they protected a 21-10 lead and forced the Seahawks to burn their timeouts.

“He kept persevering,” All-Pro guard Alan Faneca said. “He made plays tonight that were big. He made some bad ones; we all made some bad ones.

“It didn’t matter.”


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