When Ben Roethlisberger tickled Monday night, the veteran shook them off in time for a vintage performance in Pittsburgh Steelers’ 26-16 win against the New York Giants.
Roethlisberger played for the first time in a year since an end-of-season elbow injury in Week 2 of 2019, completing 21 of 32 passes for 229 yards and three touchdowns – and an 11-yard goalkeeper for a first down.
With his third scoring pass of the evening – and second behind wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster – Roethlisberger scored his 366th touchdown in his career, set a franchise record, and Eli Manning was ranked eighth in NFL history.
“I’m just so excited, I’m just grateful,” Roethlisberger told ESPN’s Maria Taylor in his post-game interview from East Rutherford, New Jersey. “I told the guys in the locker room before the game that I’m back because of them. I don’t have to achieve anything personally anymore. It’s about having a defense that I think is as good as any I’ve ever played. with skilled guys who are young and fun to play with and then, of course, my line, who I love very much and they love me.
“They are the reason why I came back to play.”
It wasn’t the most promising start for Roethlisberger, 38, as he threw a lateral to backsliding James Conner under pressure without taking a profit, ending his first run after three replays. But Roethlisberger slowly got into a rhythm and found Smith-Schuster for an 11-yard win in the next run. That gave the quarterback and his offense a bit of life when he hooked up with rookie Chase Claypool on a toe-to-toe twenty foot reception to convert a third and tall. The Steelers had to settle for a field goal on that drive, but a quarter later, Roethlisberger found the end zone when he hit Smith-Schuster for a 10-yard touchdown, taking advantage of TJ Watt’s interception of Daniel Jones in Giants’ territory.
Roethlisberger most resembled his old self in an abbreviated two-minute exercise just before half-time, leading the Steelers on a 78-meter eight-play drive with a touchdown throw to James Washington, where the third-year wide receiver made his way lanes through the end zone for the score. Just before that ride, Roethlisberger stood on the sidelines between drives with a coat turned into a wrap over his surgically repaired elbow to keep him loose and warm.
After a winless third quarter, Roethlisberger got his team back on the board with a field goal drive, followed by a time-consuming 11-time ride over 75 yards, which ended with Smith-Schuster’s second touchdown to seal victory in his return.
The veteran quarterback did it with a new line of attack, including a completely different right side than the one he played before. Zach Banner won the right tackle job from training camp, while Stefen Wisniewski replaced the injured David DeCastro at the right-hand side. But both left late in the fourth quarter, with a knee injury and a chest injury, respectively.
The Steelers also ended the game without running back Conner, who was considered doubtful to return with an ankle injury late in the fourth quarter, but didn’t play after the start of the second.
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