Why Big Ben Wants To Play Against Jaguars - By Christopher Stout

Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial

After all the offseason drama, Big Ben's dying to get back on the playing field. Here are the top three reasons why Ben wants to start against the Jaguars.

Ben Roethlisberger1. He feels like he's got something to prove.
2. He's on good terms with All-Tel Stadium.
3. Last year's Tommy Maddox meltdown deserves a response.

Ready to Return

Big B has gotta be over all the motorcycle helmet issues, all the what-happened-to-your-face questions and all the talk about his appendix. This guy just wants to play football again. Big Ben has an astounding 27-4 record as a starter, and I'm sure he wants to shift the media's focus away from the off-the-field nonsense, and back to his ability to perform on the gridiron.

Ben's a leader and hardcore competitor. He's not about to miss a competition that pits him against his former MAC rival Byron Leftwich. Charlie stepped in and did well last week, but Ben wants to show the world that he's ready to pick up where he left off.

Back to Jacksonville

All-Tel Stadium has been good to Big Ben. The last time Roethlisberger, played in Jacksonville's house, he was entering his tenth start as an NFL pro, and the Steelers were looking for their tenth straight win. Ben delivered a monster game.

Completing 82.4 percent of his passes (14 of 17), Ben threw for 221 yards and tossed two TDs. His QB rating was 158.0, but it was his late game poise that earned the Steelers a victory.

Pittsburgh was down 14-16 late in the fourth, and Ben mounted his first game winning, come-from-behind two-minute drill. The calm rookie showed confidence as he marched the offense down the field and set up a game winning field goal. The manner in which he took control of the game was appreciated by his teammates.

During his post-game comments, Alan Faneca had this to say about his QB: "Is a rookie quarterback supposed to win a game like that on the road in a hostile environment in prime time? Probably not. That says a lot about him. He's special."

Pittsburgh's young QB spoke like a leader after the win. "I want the ball in my hands," Ben said at the time, "I want to have control of the outcome of the game."

That's why Cowher won't be able to keep Ben out of this week's Monday Night battle. Ben wants the responsibility of leading his team into a hostile environment. He welcomes the challenge of a solid defense, and he also wants vengeance for last season.

Tommy's Meltdown

When the Jaguars came to Pittsburgh last year, Ben was sidelined by injury and forced to watch Tommy Maddox destroy all hopes of a victory.

Tommy gun shot nothing but blanks that day. He completed 11 of 28 for 154 yards and threw a TD. Maddox had a deplorable passer rating of 30.1. He was also extremely careless with the football. Four Tommy turnovers killed the Steelers chances to win. Tommy lost a fumble and threw three picks, including the heartbreaker to Rashean Mathis that was returned for the game winning score in OT.

After the game, Tommy blamed the wind: "I was seeing the field well and throwing the ball. If someone else's ball would have done better in the wind, that's fine with me."

Ben would never, ever make throws like that, but if he did, he would accept responsibility for his performance no matter what the outcome was. That's what makes him a leader.

Charlie Batch is not capable of playing as poorly as Tommy did, but that won't change the fact that Big Ben wants to do everything to remind the Jaguars that they stole a cheap victory away from the Black and Gold last season.

"I think we showed we're one of the toughest teams in the league," a happy-faced Rashean Mathis said after being the hero last year. "This is huge. This is a statement game around the league about us."

Ben wants to respond to that statement.

Because Ben wants to prove that he's back and badder than ever, because he's returning to the site where his team leadership skills first exploded, and because last year's Jacksonville debacle needs to be responded to appropriately, Big Ben will most certainly start this Sunday.

He'll get all the jitters out early. He'll be challenged for the first time in awhile, and he'll respond like he always does - with effortless confidence, unshakable poise and a strong to desire to lead.

The Jaguars should be concerned.