If you saw the wildcard NFL football game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals, you'll know what I'm talking about. Ben Roethlisberger is indeed a MAN among men.
Now before I explain further, let me just say I have no illusions that the Steeler's quarterback is an example of a modern-day super hero, a long-ago saintly figure, or a fearless explorer in search of the new world, because he's not, and I think Ben would be the first to agree. If you've followed his career even a little, you know what I'm referring to.
But on Saturday, with emotions running high between the two teams who have been at each other's throats for years, even before the game whistle sounded, Roethlisberger was on the sidelines, focused and unphased by the crowd's angry chants and raised fists. He was ready to take the field and lead his team to victory.
Unfortunately the Steelers went three and out on their first possession. The Bengals did likewise led by their rookie quarterback, A.J. McCarron. As the game progressed, players on both sides became more aggressive and intent on disrupting their adversary's efforts.
One player in particular, Vontaze Burfict, #55 on Cincy's defense, was not only dead set on interrupting his opponent's game plan, he was on the hunt to maim as many players as he could in 60 minutes.
There were so many times Burfict tried to succeed, and finally in the last play of the third quarter he sacked Roethlisberger, throwing him to the ground with every inch of his being, then kneeing Pittsburgh's quarterback in his injured shoulder for good measure. Although considered a legal hit, the manner in which Burfict finished off his attack was not.
Ben walked off the field unaided and was attended to by the Steeler's medical personel who deemed it necessary to take him inside for X-rays. What happened as Roethlisberger was being carted away was disgusting. Cincinnati fans cheered loudly while throwing cups, bottles, and other things at the injured player. It was reported that Ben was hit by a battery of some sort, yet he remained calm and offered no complaints towards the unruly, childish bunch of thugs.
As the fourth quarter ensued, with the Steelers winning 15-0, things got ugly. Ryan Shazier put a hit on one of the Bengal's wider receivers rwhich resulted in him leaving the field without the possibility of returning. Again though a legal hit, Shazier's helmet to helmet contact was brutal and uncalled for.
During the last quarter, A.J. McCarron led his team down the field scoring two touchdowns and a field goal to put them ahead 16-15. Landry Jones, the Steeler's backup, threw a pass that was intercepted giving the ball to Cincy with less than two minutes remaining. All they had to do was run out the clock, and the win was theirs! Unfortunately with the heavy rains still pummeling the field, on the next play, the Bengals fumbled the ball when Shazier ripped it out of the runner's hands.
Without reservation or concern for his own well-being, Big Ben looked at Mike Tomlin, and although no words were exchanged, Roethlisberger again took the field. Doing the best he could with short passes, he managed to drive the team to the fifty yard line. With little time left, Ben went to the sidelines to confer with Todd Haley who suggested a long pass was the only possibility to score of put them in field goal position. Ben knew a long pass was out of the question, but promised to do his best.
After three tries and facing a 4th and 3, Roethlisberger threw a 10 yarder to Antonio Brown. Although the wide receiver missed the catch, what happened next could only be viewed as malicious. Burfict came out of nowhere and smacked his helmet into Brown, rendering the defenseless player unconscious. Cincy received a 15 yard penality. While coaches and teammates gathered around concerned for Antonio's condition, Cincinnati players professed that the hit was legan and that they were being unfairly judged. Things got heated and Adam Jones punched Joey Porter, Pittsburgh's assistant coach and verbally went on the attack. Though it was reported later that Joey should not have been on the field, refs usually allow it when a player's well-being is in question. Porter did nothing to retaliate. Another fifteen yards was handed to Marvin Lewis' team and with only 18 seconds remaining, Pittsburgh kicked a 35 yard field goal and won the game!
Players quickly left the arena, but not before one of the announcer's took the opportunity to talk to Big Ben. When asked about his shoulder injury and if he thought he'd be ready for the next playoff game, he simply smiled and replied, "We won the game," and left for the locker room.
Ben Roethlisberger, A MAN AMONG MEN!