Trash talking is a massive element of professional sport, probably no more so than in America.
But when you have elite quarterbacks with the talent of Ben Roethlisberger on the opposite side of the ball in the NFL, poking the beast isn’t advisable.
The Jacksonville Jaguars found that out to their cost in the early hours of Monday when – seemingly set to pounce on a precious first win in five games – Big Ben chimed into action as time ticked down late in the game.
Instead, it was the Pittsburgh Steelers and Roethlisberger who pounced. There was 1:17 remaining in the third quarter when the veteran QB connected with Antonio Brown for a 78-yard bomb – a record extending 11th receiving touchdown of the season for the wide receiver.
Up until then, the only thing of note the 36-year-old Roethlisberger had thrown were a couple of interceptions to Pro Bowl cornerback Jalen Ramsey.
Ramsey had more interceptions than Pittsbugh had points for a long stretch – the record six-time Super Bowl champions were 16-0 behind until that late third quarter score.
An arrow from 11 yards then found the arms of tight end Vance McDonald with a little over two minutes left and suddenly Roethlisberger had a couple of touchdown passes to mirror those picks.
But when James Conner somehow let an easy grab escape his grasp that would have resulted in a touchdown with under a minute left in the fourth, it really didn’t seem like it would be Pittsburgh’s day.
Roethlisberger took matters into his own hands, or rather, his feet. After laying siege to the Jaguars’ line and seeing their drive kept alive by two idiotic face mask and holding penalties, the 6ft 5in, 109kg QB kept the ball and sought out the endzone, diving across the plane for the winning score with five seconds left.
“They’re a really good defence. They like to talk a lot, before the game, during the game, but I’m carrying the game ball home,” said Roethlisberger after the game.
Linebacker Telvin Smith had reportedly been in his face after the two interceptions, reminding Roethlisberger of his errors.
Lighting a fire under any quarterback rarely turns out to be a good idea, let alone a future Hall of Famer with as much talent and longevity in the game as Big Ben.
From trash talking to talking of all-time greats. And Roethlisberger certainly belongs to that group. He is already among the NFL’s all-time leaders in several categories.
He is the only quarterback in history to throw for more than 500 yards in three different games. The only other quarterback to do it more than once was Drew Brees.
Upon defeating the Seattle Seahawks 21-10 in Super Bowl XL he became the youngest starting QB to win the game’s greatest prize – surpassing Tom Brady.
Yet, despite undoubtedly being one of the best ever, Roethlisberger never seems able to propel himself into the GOAT (greatest of all time) conversation.
Unofficially, everyone agrees Brady is just that. At 41, Father Time’s record of five Super Bowl wins, plus a myriad of individual accolades, speaks for itself.
Brees, 39, has thrown himself into the conversation this season after decimating a number of big milestones, including breaking Brett Favre’s record for career pass completions (6,479) and Peyton Manning’s all-time passing yardage record (73,409).
Roethlisberger’s career 54,267 total passing yards place him seventh all-time – behind Brees, Manning, Favre, Brady, Dan Marino and Eli Manning.
Yet only Brady has more Super Bowl rings than 36-year-old Big Ben’s two (the younger Manning also has two).
His playoff record is also up there with the very best. His 13-8 win-loss mark is sixth all-time, with Brady (27-10) some way ahead.
He has led the Steelers to the playoffs in 10 of his 14 seasons. Brady has taken the New England Patriots to the post-season in 15 of his 18 campaigns and Brees six of 12 since joining the New Orelans Saints in 2006.
Roethlisberger’s vintage performance on Monday proves the ageing quarterback is still operating at the top level – and what’s even more impressive is how he’s led his team to an impressive 7-2-1 record without 2017’s star player, Le’Veon Bell, who has sat out the entire campaign so far over contractual issues.
The talent he possesses in his cannon of an arm doesn’t detract from misgivings off the field – Roethlisberger is far from the perfect human – but on it the veteran gunslinger is as dangerous as any of his contemporaries in a straight shootout, either with his arm or even as he showed on Sunday, occasionally with his legs.
It clearly meant a lot to an emotional Roethlisberger, seen kneeling and sobbing on his own on the sidelines following the winning score.
As the trash-talking Jaguars saw victory snatched from their grasp, they were left eating their words as they stare at a six-game losing streak at the bottom of the AFC South, while Big Ben and the Steelers sit unbeaten in six and atop the AFC North.
This is a Jaguars side that lost by a mere four points to New England in the AFC Championship game in January. It was their first playoff run in a decade, and time is against them if they are to make the post-season again this year.
Meanwhile, the Steelers keep rolling and Big Ben keeps ticking along.
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It was a busy trade deadline in the NFL on Tuesday, with several notable names moved across the league.
The overarching theme of the trades that went down was contenders looking to bolster their roster for a playoff push with potential short-term acquisitions.
Here’s a breakdown of the biggest transactions.
EAGLES ADD GOLDEN TATE
The defending champions got better and they did it by finding value on the trade market.
Golden Tate isn’t going to solve Philadelphia’s secondary issues or banged-up backfield, but he does give Carson Wentz another weapon to work with. Alshon Jeffery and Zach Ertz are firmly established as the top two targets in the passing game, but Tate is known for having a safe pair of hands and an ability to fight for extra yards after the catch.
A third-round pick may seem like a steep price to pay for a player in the final year of his contract, but the Eagles will actually get a compensation pick somewhere in that ballpark if he leaves in the offseason.
Detroit, meanwhile, break up arguably the best receiver trio in the league, but it will allow Kenny Golladay to be more of a focal point in their attack.
TEXANS ADD DEMARYIUS THOMAS
After losing number two wide receiver Will Fuller to a season-ending torn ACL this past week, Houston were aggressive in filling his shoes by sending the Denver Broncos a 2019 fourth-round draft pick for Demaryius Thomas.
Two years ago, this would have been a bigger deal, but Thomas hasn’t topped 1,000 receiving yards since 2016 and at 30, doesn’t look like the playmaking receiver he once was. He’s also prone to drops – an area he will have no problem replacing Fuller. But otherwise, Thomas will struggle to be anywhere near the deep threat Fuller is.
He also brings a $14 million cap hit for next season, so it’s conceivable the Texans move on from him after half a season.
For the Broncos, shedding Thomas opens up even more opportunity the young Cortland Sutton, who has shown he’s ready for an increased role.
RAMS ADD DANTE FOWLER
The rich get richer as the league’s only undefeated team continues to stockpile talent.
It’s clear the Rams’ window of contention is at its most open right now, so it makes sense for them to go after a player who may not be there next season, which could be the case with Fowler who is due for free agency.
In the meantime, the former number three overall draft pick will bring situational pass rushing on the edge to compliment Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh.
Jacksonville’s defence will take a slight hit, but they have more than enough on that side of the ball to maintain their strength. And it allows them to hedge a bit if they don’t reach the playoffs at the end of this season.
WASHINGTON ADD HAHA CLINTON-DIX
It’s understandable why Green Bay shipped off HaHa Clinton-Dix, the safety who has kept their secondary from falling apart in recent years, but it’s a move that certainly hurts their contention hopes this season.
Clinton-Dix is in the final year of his rookie contract and it’s obvious the Packers weren’t planning on bringing him back, so they recouped what they could. Now, they’ll put their faith in their young defensive backs to help fill the void.
In Washington, Clinton-Dix will be another reliable presence in a secondary that includes Josh Norman and D.J. Swearinger. As the team currently leading the NFC East, Washington have every reason to believe they’ll need Clinton-Dix for the playoffs.
RAVENS ADD TY MONTGOMERY
Man, that’s a cold move by the Green Bay Packers to basically send Ty Montgomery away for his disastrous fourth-quarter fumble this past weekend.
Is a seventh-round pick really better than Montgomery, who can be useful as a runner and receiver? Probably not. But Green Bay also have Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams in their backfield, so the work just isn’t there for Montgomery – unless it’s on special teams, and everyone knows how that went.
For the Ravens, Montgomery can add another element to their running back group, which features Alex Collins and Javorius Allen. For a seventh-round pick, it’s worth a flier.
Here are five players worth targeting on the waiver wire this week who could be useful in your starting lineup going forward.
When talent and opportunity meet, that’s the intersection where you can find fantasy value.
After a slow start to the season, Moore appears to be getting his opportunity, with the Carolina Panthers wide receiver racking up 129 total yards in his first start this past weekend.
He was a first-round draft pick for a reason and isn’t someone who needs a heavy serving of targets to make plays.
Okay, you don’t have to convince us anymore David Moore. It’s reached the point where end-zone visits for the Seattle Seahawks wideout are no longer a fluke, but a trend.
He’s scored in three straight games now and is doing it efficiently without many targets. It’s unlikely he keeps up his touchdown rate to this degree, but he’s widely available as a home-run play.
WR David Moore has 9 receptions in the past three games.— Brian Nemhauser (@hawkblogger) October 29, 2018
4 have gone for touchdowns
4 have been for 27+ yards
Fitzmagic is back, baby!
With Jameis Winston playing himself out of the starting job thanks to his love of interceptions, Fitzpatrick could take the reins of the Buccaneers offence once again.
If he is named the starter, don’t expect Fitzpatrick to put up the kind of numbers he did in the beginning of the season, but he’s obviously capable of capturing lighting in a bottle once in a while.
The Philadelphia Eagles backfield is unpredictable right now, so use that unpredictability to your advantage by taking a stab on Adams, who may end up emerging as the lead back.
It was Adams and not Wendell Smallwood or Corey Clement who received the most carries on Sunday, and it’s possible that continues to be the case considering his efficiency this season (5.4 yards per carry).
Having as many shares of the Los Angeles Rams offence as possible this season has been a winning strategy, so why not target Reynolds?
It’s true his value is largely dependent on how much more time Cooper Kupp misses, but with how well the Rams are playing, they can afford to play it safe with their starting wideout as he recovers from an MCL sprain. In the meantime, Reynolds can thrive.