Nobody Boos 007 - By John Smathers
Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial
|Allow himself to introduce ... himself.
The name is Roethlisberger ... Big Ben Roethlisberger, black-and-gold man of mystery and quarterback in the service of his majesty, Mr. Rooney.
But that's 007 to you. 0 wins, 0 touchdowns and 7 interceptions.
Meet his boss, Sir William Cowher, who protects Big Ben's identity, injury situation and just about everything else we want to know with a fog of denial.
Meet his gadget man, W (Ken Whisenhunt, but that's classified). Hey, whizzer, can you make an ejection seat for the pocket? Or how about an adhesive to make the ball stick to his hand when he gets hit. If you're going to try another flea-flicker, at least wait until he has the arm to do it again. Until then, maybe Najeh Davenport can throw a tackle eligible pass to Max Starks ... a HUGE tackle eligible pass. Where's Randle El when you need him?
Run with the ball, whizzy? Smashing! No, wait ... he's Roethlisberger. Big Ben Roethlisberger. He only talks about running more to throw off his enemies, then gets sacked five times. Besides, 'smashing' and 'Roethlisberger' don't go well together in the same sentence.
But speaking of smashing, you'll dig the title track to his next flick - "The spy who golfed in January" by the Povertyneck Hillbillies. Shag-a-delic, baby, YEAH! Does that make you randy? Not me. Maybe Ben can blow off another day in the weight room to appear in the video, but don't worry, he's Roethlisberger ... Big Ben Roethlisberger. I'm just sorry there isn't a hot version of Moneypenny for that bomb. That would make it bearable to watch, at least. Hey, I've been lobbying for Steelers cheerleaders for years, but no one listens. Anyway ...
007 is the special quarterback that the enemy can't take out. They tried to run him down on his motorcycle (nice little lady from Maine, indeed). They tried to poison him. (Appendectomy?? Right).
Steelers fans worship him. Steelers women want him. Steelers men want to be him.
Well, OK ... maybe not right now. Right now, he's stinking up the NFL. Right now.
Probably the truest part of all that, apart from the cheerleader thing, is that he is very much a man of mystery. Can you figure this guy out, because I can't. I've oscillated between different theories and remedies for what ails him. And hey, he's ailing. The guy's passer rating of 41.7 isn't even in the top 30. He's No. 32, just ahead of dead-last Andrew Walter of Oakland, who must really suck. Kind of makes you look forward to that Oakland game in a couple of weeks, doesn't it?
Speaking of dead last, that's where you'll find 007's touchdown percentage. Obviously, it's another big zero. Gone, at least for now, are those heady days when Big Ben led the league in touchdown percentage. Last year it was 6.3. As a rookie in 2004, he was ranked seventh among 33 quarterbacks.
Now only Mr. Walter is worse than Roethlisberger in interception percentage (boy, that Raider game is looking better and better). And guess who leads the league with the best interception percentage (0.0). That's right, Damon Huard of the incoming Kansas City Chiefs, who also owns the league's second best passer rating (107.4).
What to do? Well, it's obvious there is only one thing to do where Roethlisberger is concerned. Play. And he will. Don't expect anything else. He has to play himself back to where he once was, and the guys around him have to come around. It might be early by Cowher's calendar, but it's time for Santonio Holmes to start earning the first-round money. Cedrick Wilson couldn't get it done, so Holmes was brought at San Diego to inject life into the passing game. It didn't work, but maybe it will this week. It's time to start Santonio at split end. Just say something like, Wilson has a mysterious neck injury. That will work.
Next, try throwing to Heath Miller, too. And mix it up a little more with Davenport. Throw it to the hot dog vender. Just please stop pretending that Wilson and Nate Washington are actually complements to Hines Ward as second receivers. They are not.
And there's one thing not to do where you, the fan, are concerned. Don't boo Roethlisberger ... yet.
All the talk about Roethlisberger's wondrous record as a starter has faded. He's 0-3 now. That's all that counts at the moment. And for the first time in his career, he will come into Heinz Field on a losing streak over which he alone presided as quarterback. It will be interesting to see how the fans react to him if things don't go so well.
Remember, it wasn't long ago that it seemed the whole Steelers fan base held its collective breath while Roethlisberger was lying in a hospital bed ... the first time. And now they would boo him? I hope not. I don't see what good would come of it. Nobody ever booed James Bond, or even Austin Powers. Well, unless they were evil, or lived in Cincinnati, Baltimore or Cleveland, the Axis of Evil in the AFC North.
Let me cheer you up. All is not lost and you don't have to be a Ben-Booer on Sunday. Remember these:
-Cowher appears to be willing to change some things. That is seldom a bad thing.
-Since 1995, Pittsburgh owns the NFL's best record in the month of October at 32-12 (.727) mark. The team is 39-15 in October under Cowher. This is the Steelers' month.
-The Steelers have been flagged an NFL low -- 10 times for just 90 yards. They will need discipline for the task ahead.
I shouldn't go on. You can only drink so much Kool-Aid. But here's one last reminder: Basically, the same team focused last year when things looked pretty grim and the rest was history. Cowher is playing that down now, but I don't think this situation is nearly as dire as that one. So hold your catcalls this Sunday. If Bond can bounce back after his bride got shot up in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Ben can bounce back, too.