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Rematch poses tough test



Published: Tue, January 11, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Jets held Ben Roethlisberger to his worst game -- statistically -- this season.

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Ben Roethlisberger has played few poor games during his unrivaled 13-0 rookie-season run. The Steelers' 17-6 victory over the New York Jets on Dec. 12 was one of them.

Roethlisberger looked uncomfortable and played ineffectively, throwing two interceptions while being sacked twice as Pittsburgh was held to only three points until the fourth quarter.

The rookie quarterback picked up his play in the fourth quarter by leading two touchdown drives, but his statistics -- 9-of-19 for 144 yards -- were his worst of the season. He didn't even lead the Steelers in touchdown passes; Jerome Bettis had one to his none.

No worries

If Steelers coach Bill Cowher is concerned that Roethlisberger will make his first NFL playoff start Saturday against the team that frustrated him the most during the season, he's not showing it Monday.

Roethlisberger has played more games than he did during his final college season at Miami (Ohio), so to Cowher he isn't a rookie any longer.

"We have an identity now. We have players who have roles on this team and we need everybody to play at the levels that have put us in this position," Cowher said Monday. "There's no one excluded. I don't differentiate rookies from guys who have been here eight or nine years."

But Roethlisberger looked like a rookie against the Jets, throwing for only 24 yards in the first half. Nearly all of Roethlisberger's yardage came as he completed four of his final five passes for 99 yards, including a 46-yard completion to Lee Mays that led to Bettis' 12-yard touchdown run.

Looking back

"They were bringing a lot of people, and penalties hurt us a lot," Roethlisberger said. "We did not play a good first half of football offensively. We made some mistakes, but the good thing is we got out with the win."

Afterward, it was suggested that Roethlisberger was regressing and had hit the so-called rookie-year wall, but he bounced back a week later to throw for 316 yards and a touchdown as the Steelers beat the Giants 33-30.

"The thing I liked about Ben in the fourth quarter was, he never flinched," Cowher said.

The Steelers' 15-1 record matches the NFL's best regular season mark since the 16-game schedule was adopted in 1976. Two of the previous three teams to go 15-1 won the Super Bowl (the 1984 49ers and 1985 Bears); only the 1998 Vikings didn't, losing to Atlanta in overtime in the NFC Championship game.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




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