By Teresa Varley
All season long when his play helped lead the Steelers to victory, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger gave credit to his teammates for the success. Whether it was the offensive line, running backs, tight ends, receivers, or the defense, he was quick to heap praise on others and never take credit himself.
On Saturday night, he shouldered the blame for the Steelers 31-29 AFC Wild Card loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, apologizing to his teammates in the locker room afterwards.
"I just wanted them to know, for everybody, not just the offense or defense, that no one should blame anybody or anything other than myself," said a disappointed Roethlisberger. "I take the heat for that. I dug us a hole. We got out of the hole a little bit, but it was too deep. I'm ashamed of the way I played. I told the guys I apologize and it's unfortunate that it had to end this way."
Roethlisberger completed 29 of 42 pass attempts for 337 yards, with three interceptions and two touchdown passes. He was also under pressure all night getting sacked six times.
With the game tied in the second quarter Roethlisberger went to Santonio Holmes but Jaguars cornerback Rashean Mathis came in at the last second and intercepted the pass and returned it 63 yards for a touchdown.
One series later Roethlisberger threw it up for Najeh Davenport and Mathis was there again for his second interception of the game. The Jaguars offense turned it into seven points and a 21-7 lead.
"It's frustrating because only one of the interceptions was a bad one," said Roethlisberger. "The others were just great plays on their part. It's hard to sit here and say 'take care of the ball, make better decisions,' because I felt like the decision making was pretty good. It's just unfortunate. They made good plays and we didn't. Like I said, I put this loss on me. I told the guys it's not on them and if they all want to blame me that's fine. I'll take it."
Roethlisberger helped to mount a fourth quarter comeback, scoring 21 unanswered points to reclaim the lead for the first time since the opening drive. But it wouldn't be enough as the Steelers couldn't move the chains on their final drive.
"They did a lot of good things. Give them a lot of credit," said Roethlisberger of Jacksonville's defense. "They rushed four. They didn't blitz a lot, and when they did, we burned them for a touchdown. They dropped a lot of guys. There weren't a lot of holes to throw it to.
"It's frustrating because the throws, the interceptions, only one of them was probably a stupid throw. The first one he makes a great play to just cut in front of Santonio with the right read. For the third one, a defensive lineman just gets in front of the screen. In the second half, we started going no huddle, started calling the plays. We went down the field we just tried to get out of the hole I dug."