Brady, Roethlisberger square off at Heinz Field on Sunday
By MIKE SHALIN
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Tom Brady had no reason to believe Ben Roethlisberger’s injury last week would keep him out of Sunday’s game against the New England Patriots. And it won’t.
The Pittsburgh quarterback injured his ribs in the loss at Oakland, left the game but returned in the fourth quarter and threw his second touchdown pass of the game. He drove his team to a tying field goal try that failed when kicker Chris Boswell slipped — and the Steelers lost their third straight.
“He’s as tough as they come,” Brady said Friday ahead of their matchup at Heinz Field. “I remember there was one game he didn’t start because of his foot and then the guy got hurt. Ben came in, as a backup, and he threw for 300 or something like that. Some ridiculous stat.
“He’s just tough, been a great quarterback in the league for a long time, knows the game. He’s just a great competitor and he’s always got those guys going.”
Asked what he’s observed from watching Roethlisberger through the years, Brady said, “He’s got such a unique style. He’s just an incredible player. Prolific passer, great accurate passer, they just had incredible passing offenses.
“His style is very different. He’s just big, stands in the pocket, has great presence. He’s not really a runner, but he extends a lot plays and makes huge plays for their team. It’s hard to stop. Any time you play a guy like that, it’s up to us to really execute our offense and score as many points as we can.”
Brady has had the upper hand in his career against the Steelers, going 8-2 in the regular season and 3-0 in the playoffs. But the two losses have both come at Heinz, where Pittsburgh is always tough. The Patriots, with a 3-4 road record, are coming off the shocking last-second loss at Miami.
“Going on the road is always challenging in the NFL,” Brady said. “You’re playing good teams and there’s a lot of tough road environments. It’s always sellouts and if we don’t play well, it really gets the crowd into it. It’s a great environment too when you can go to a stadium and play well and kind of keep the crowd quiet. It’s a great feeling.
“It’s a hard thing to do there. A lot of these games come down to the wire and we’re expecting a 60-minute game.”
Brady is 6-2 at Heinz but has won his last two times there, with scores of 27-16 and 27-24. He’s won his last five against the Steelers, counting postseason.
Another week means more potential milestones for Brady and his team. Brady enters the game needing 141 yards passing to become the fourth quarterback in NFL history to throw for 70,000 regular-season yards. He is 300 yards shy of his 10th 3,000-yard season.
The Patriots seek to clinch their 10th straight AFC East title (18th in 25 years of Robert Kraft ownership). They need a win and a Miami loss to clinch.
However, Kansas City’s last-second loss to the Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday night opened the door for the Patriots to have a shot at the No. 1 seed in the conference.
“I think we just worry about, honestly, what we can control and that’s just us playing,” noted Brady, who said he went to sleep before Thursday’s game. “Coach (Bill Belichick) has always said, ‘It’s not where we play, it’s how we play.’ We’ve got to just take care of business on our end.
“So, this is a big one, this is a tough one and we’re going to have to play really well.”