Ben Roethlisberger’s record-setting day finished with a carry just as valuable as any of the 66 passes he threw to set a franchise record.
As the Pittsburgh Steelers poured onto Heinz Field to celebrate a frantic 39-38 victory over Baltimore that wrapped up their third American Football Conference (AFC) North title in four years, Roethlisberger grabbed the familiar No. 50 jersey of injured linebacker Ryan Shazier and joined the party.
An emotionally draining week ended with Shazier recovering from spinal surgery in a nearby hospital, but still very much in the middle of things. Just like always.
Photo: Charles LeClaire / USA Today
“We love our brother,” Roethlisberger said. “We wanted to get this one for him, and I’m glad we did.”
The Steelers (11-2) blew an early 14-point lead and found themselves trailing by 11 going into the fourth before exploding for 19 points over the final 15 minutes, the last three coming on Chris Boswell’s 46-yard field goal with 42 seconds left.
Having an offense that peaks after a sleepy start certainly helps.
Roethlisberger threw for 506 yards and two scores to become the first player in NFL history to pass more than 500 yards three times in his career.
Antonio Brown caught 11 passes for 213 yards to fuel an MVP candidacy that no longer feels so far-fetched, including gains of 57 and 34 yards in the fourth to spark Pittsburgh’s comeback, and running back Le’Veon Bell finished with 125 total yards and three scores.
“It’s an amazing feeling, especially for Ryan Shazier,” Brown said.
Shazier suffered his injury in the first quarter of a victory over Cincinnati on Monday last week.
The Steelers have done their best to let Shazier know is very much a part of their run. Linebacker James Harrison borrowed a page from Shazier’s pre-game routine and warmed up shirtless, even with the temperature hovering at about freezing. Shazier’s helmet and jersey spent the game on the bench and several Steelers wore cleats featuring Shazier’s face and #Shalieve.
The win sets up the AFC game of the year on Sunday when defending Super Bowl champions the New England Patriots visit.
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