This is Norm Van Brocklin. He set the single-game passing yardage record in 1954. That record has stood for 60 years. The man who set it has been dead for 30. Ben Roethlisberger could easily have been the one to finally etch his name over that record. Marino didn’t. Warner didn’t. Manning didn’t. It could have been Ben Roethlisberger. The fact that the team didn’t even let him try for it with a comfortable lead and time left in the 4th quarter is a tremendous disappointment.
When a franchise player is within striking distance of a record like that, teams tend to help him get there. Hockey players will let slumping teammates score empty-net goals. Managers leave pitchers in the game long enough to qualify for their first win if it’s feasible. If Antonio Brown has an extended streak of 5-catch games, Ben will toss him a short throw at the end of the game to keep his streak alive.
So why not Ben?
On an evening when Ben set franchise records throwing the football, he was suddenly reigned in once he approached one of the oldest marks in league history. It wasn’t a matter of pulling your starter to protect him. They left him in to hand off to Le’Veon Bell, and even called a naked bootleg play that ended in Ben taking a pretty vicious hit for the first time all night. It was mystifying to watch, and it somehow took away the excitement of the Steelers’ best offensive performance of the decade.
I have no idea how Todd Haley, who galvanized his reputation today and would spend this week bulletproof in the media, managed to let us all down right at the end. We should be celebrating the resurgence of the offense, the coming out of Martavis Bryant, and the offense that finally looks like we know it’s capable of looking.
But here we are, accepting a win but still unsatisfied with the way it ended.