A week that began with Ben Roethlisberger chiding Antonio Brown for his behavior in the Steelers’ previous game ended in disaster for the Pittsburgh quarterback and his team. After throwing five interceptions, including two that were returned for touchdowns, in a 30-9 home loss Sunday to the Jacksonville Jaguars, Roethlisberger told reporters, “Maybe I don’t have it anymore.”
When the 35-year-old was asked what he meant by that comment, he said, “I’m not playing well enough.”
Roethlisberger failed to throw a touchdown pass Sunday, making him just the second NFL player since 2014 to do that while also throwing five interceptions. He also became the first Steelers quarterback to have that many passes picked off since Mark Malone in 1987.
In his 14th NFL season, Roethlisberger came into the game completing 62.1 percent of his passes, below his career average, with six touchdowns, two interceptions and a 90.7 passer rating, which would be his lowest mark since 2011. His rating for Sunday’s performance, which included completing 33 of 55 passes (60.0 percent) for 312 yards, was 37.8.
Despite his downbeat self-assessment, Roethlisberger went on to tell reporters (via ESPN), “Doing this long enough, you understand not to panic. … I’m not going to hit any buttons where it’s like, ‘Oh man, what do I do to change all this and that, go see people.’ Just come out on Wednesday and be ready to practice.”
“I believe in seven,” said Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward, referring to Roethlisberger by his jersey number. The 3-2 team’s other captain, apart from the veteran quarterback, Heyward added, “Seven’s done too much not to.”
On Tuesday, Roethlisberger called out Brown for throwing a “temper tantrum” during a Week 4 win over the Ravens. After the quarterback failed to spot a wide-open Brown for what would likely have been a long touchdown, the receiver threw a Gatorade cooler and shouted at offensive coordinator Todd Haley.
“I know that he’s a competitor and he wants the ball, but all of us are competitors,” Roethlisberger said Tuesday. “We all want the ball. We all want to make plays. … I wish that [Brown] would’ve just come to me and tell me, ‘Hey, Ben, I killed them on this play,’ whatever. That goes a lot further than having a temper tantrum.”
Roethlisberger also praised Brown as “the best receiver in the world,” and the latter paid his quarterback a few compliments while apologizing Friday for his outburst. “As a general of our team, he has every right to call anything out,” Brown said. ” … I’m just grateful we have a great leader who’s forgiving and accommodating and willing to talk to me.”
A report Sunday, though, by CBS Sports’s Jason La Canfora claimed Brown has “been at odds” with Roethlisberger since the latter convinced the team to stay in the tunnel before a Week 3 game against the Bears, rather than stand on the sideline during the national anthem. According to La Canfora, Brown “has felt strongly the urge to kneel in protest during the anthem,” and when he was not targeted on the Week 4 play, the receiver “took it personally and believed it was related to his recent dispute with Roethlisberger.”
With Brown and fellow talented receivers Martavis Bryant and JuJu Smith-Schuster, plus running back Le’Veon Bell and a highly regarded offensive line, Pittsburgh doesn’t lack for firepower, making Roethlisberger’s struggles all the more vexing. Over the team’s first four games, his passing yardage had dropped from 263 to 243 to 235 to 216.
For his part, Brown had 10 catches for 157 yards against Jacksonville, and he predicted after the game that Roethlisberger would “come to work this week with a lot of intensity,” adding, “He’s going to bring the best out of all of us, especially after a week like this.”
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