Is Ben Roethlisberger A Diva? Brian Billick And Kordell Stewart Disagree
Former Ravens Head Coach Brian Billick seems to be on the same page as Terrell Suggs.
Both men strongly believe Ben Roethlisberger is going to play in Sunday's much-anticipated rivalry game between the Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers despite the quarterback undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus less than three weeks ago.
"No, do not fall for that," Suggs said yesterday. "I saw this movie before. He is going to act like, 'I am not playing; I don't know. I did individuals today; I threw a little bit. I still don't know.' Then he is going to walk his big [butt] on out there."
Billick* *isn't falling for it either.
Truth is, Roethlisberger has only played and started in all 16 regular-season games three times in his 13-year NFL career.
"There is no quarterback I respect more than Ben Roethlisberger," Billick told Pittsburgh's The Fan Morning Show. "This guy's going to the Hall of Fame, he has spectacular numbers, tough, toughest quarterback maybe I've seen in the NFL …
"But he's a diva. We know that. And he's going to drag that leg out there and throw for 400 yards against the Ravens."
These comments come two weeks after another former Raven, Bart Scott, called Big Ben a "drama king."
I'm sensing a theme in Baltimore. But, what is the sentiment in Pittsburgh?
"What's going on here?" asked Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Joe Starkey. "Do these guys have a legitimate point or are they just bitter old Ravens who never beat Ben in a big game? I lean hard toward the latter."
Former Steelers and Ravens quarterback Kordell Stewart was also a guest on The Fan, and strongly disagreed with Billick.
"Now, I've never seen a diva drag a leg out on the football field," Stewart said, per Starkey. "I just think [Roethlisberger's] a tough guy. … When I think of a diva, I think of a prima donna. A little more soft. I don't think Ben comes across that way."
Starkey believes Big Ben's past "embellishments" have led to his current reputation, citing a classic \example of claiming he broke toes (plural) in the 2004 AFC championship and then Head Coach Bill Cowher telling the media a few days later, "Ben does not have broken toes, OK?"
There was also a game in 2006 against Jacksonville when Michele Tafoya was adamant Roethlisberger told her that he had a 104-degree fever, and Cower later said it was 100.4.
But, Roethlisberger has legitimately played through injuries before, including when Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata broke his nose in 2011. And he did just have surgery.
"Roethlisberger certainly wasn't acting three weeks ago against the Dolphins," wrote Starkey. "Scott made a fool of himself by insinuating as much. Roethlisberger played through an injury that required surgery the next day. That's real.
"So is this: He's probably going to shake off whatever pain remains and grab a helmet Sunday. And, yeah, probably throw for 400 yards."
Pittsburgh Columnist Says Steelers Drawing Ravens At Bad Time
Judging by my Twitter feed, there's not a lot of confidence that the Ravens can beat the division's first-place Steelers.
Judging by a pair of Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnists, there's not a lot of confidence in the Steelers' chances either.
The newspaper's Gerry Dulac is predicting a Ravens 20-17 victory, and his colleague, Ed Bouchette, says the Steelers are drawing Baltimore at a bad time.
"The Baltimore Ravens have lost four consecutive games to fall to 3-4, the season after they landed with a thump at 5-11. In other words, they have the Steelers right where they want them," wrote Bouchette.
"Even when they haven't been very good, the Ravens have been a constant source of problems for the Steelers," added Dulac.
Both writers cite the rivalry's recent history as a reason to doubt Pittsburgh. While Baltimore only won five total games last year, two came against the Steelers, and they haven't forgotten because it cost the team a top playoff seed. Baltimore has won the last three, and five of the past six meetings.
Ravens skeptics are quick to point out that the purple and black are on the worst losing streak in the John Harbaugh era. That provides little comfort in Pittsburgh.
"Not that it will matter," wrote Dulac.
A fan asked Dulac why Baltimore has gotten the better of Pittsburgh over the last several years. Is it because the Ravens have a better roster, or is it because of coaching?
"I think it's neither," Dulac replied. "I think it's more that the Ravens know how to beat the Steelers. If you want to call that coaching, then credit John Harbaugh. I don't think they have better players, maybe on defense, but there's still no reason for the series to be so lopsided recently."
Suggs was quick not to read too much into recent history when talking with Pittsburgh media yesterday.
"We haven't mastered anything," he said. "If you look at the two games last year, there were some fortunate things that happened for us in the course of the games, maybe a missed field goal here and there. You can't say we've mastered anything."
Both Teams Getting Heathy At Same Time
What is the only thing better than a grudge match between the Ravens and Steelers?
A grudge match between the two when nearly all the key players are healthy and on the field.
Much has (rightfully) been made of the returns of Suggs (biceps), linebacker C.J. Mosley (thigh), right guard Marshal Yanda (shoulder) and left tackle Ronnie Stanley (foot). And while he didn't practice yesterday, there's still a chance wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. (ankle) returns.
But the Steelers are coming off a bye week too, and they're also expected to have several key players return, including defensive end Cam Heyward and offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert.
"Having Ben Roethlisberger back in the pocket is vital for the Steelers. Nearly as important will be the return of [Heyward and Gilbert]," wrote Bouchette. "Both played at a Pro Bowl level last season and were on that kind of pace this year."
Playoff Odds For Ravens And Steelers
Both teams badly want to win this game, but Baltimore *needs *it more than Pittsburgh when you consider how a loss will affect each team's playoff hopes.
According to ESPN, the Steelers have a 61.6 percent chance of advancing to the postseason, while the Ravens have a 22.1 percent chance.
"With Baltimore just a game behind Pittsburgh, the Ravens-Steelers game Sunday is very important for the AFC North race. Yet a Baltimore upset of Pittsburgh this week won't scramble the division as much as you might think because of the teams' remaining schedules," wrote Aaron Schatz.
"Pittsburgh has the fifth-easiest remaining schedule, and Baltimore has the fifth-toughest. So even with a win, Baltimore's playoff odds would go up to about only 33 percent, with Pittsburgh's dropping to about 48 percent. (Cincinnati, on a bye this week, would also see its odds go up slightly with a Pittsburgh loss.) But a Pittsburgh win would solidify the Steelers as prohibitive division favorites."