Big Ben takes blame for Steelers' stumble

506621.jpg

Big Ben takes blame for Steelers' stumble

From Comcast SportsNetPITTSBURGH (AP) -- Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger looks at his passing statistics, and they're not all that bad.His passer rating is up from his career average, as well as his average passing yards per game.The completion rate is where it has been over the course of an eight-year career.Only once before has Roethlisberger thrown more touchdown passes per game or fewer interceptions per game.But it's been Roethlisberger's play, by his own admission, that's a key factor in Pittsburgh (7-8) failing to make the playoffs for only the fourth time since 2001."A lot of it just has to do with me not playing well enough down the stretch," Roethlisberger said. "Fourth-quarter drives or last-minute throws, I'm just not making it happen, so my best answer would be that I just didn't play well enough."The Steelers controlled their playoff fate until their 13-10 loss to Cincinnati on Sunday eliminated them from the postseason.Just as had happened one week earlier against Dallas, Roethlisberger threw an interception during a tie game that led to the opponent kicking a winning field goal.Those losses joined others earlier this season against Denver, Oakland and Tennessee in which Pittsburgh not only blew fourth-quarter leads, but had the ball in the final minutes with a chance to drive for a potential winning score.The Roethlisberger-led offense failed each time. In the season opener at Denver, he threw an interception to Tracy Porter that was returned 43 yards for the clinching touchdown."In the past, I prided myself and us in fourth-quarter comebacks," Roethlisberger said. "I've always said that you don't want to have them, because that means you haven't done well early in the game, but we've always been good at it. And this year, we just weren't. I don't think there's any rhyme or reason why, (but) it was just a year when I wasn't."Roethlisberger has thrown only eight interceptions this season, but many came at crucial times. Six came in defeats, four in the fourth quarter or overtime. His first interception in the must-win game against the Bengals on Sunday was returned for Cincinnati's only touchdown.This season, Roethlisberger's 84.4 passer rating in the fourth quarter and overtime is by far lower than during any of the other three quarters.That would seem to be in contrast to the clutch reputation Roethlisberger has earned over the course of a career in which he has led 22 fourth-quarter comebacks and 29 game-winning drives during the regular season and also led a memorable comeback in the final minutes of the 2009 Super Bowl."I don't think there's any reason to go panic about it, because I've been pretty good for eight years doing it and had one not-so-good year on it," Roethlisberger said. "I think I played pretty good football, though, other than those situations."To be fair, Roethlisberger was under center for three fourth-quarter comebacks this season. But even coach Mike Tomlin acknowledges his two-time Pro Bowler just wasn't the same in such situations this season."Just not making the critical plays," Tomlin said. "Not a lot has changed in terms of structurally for how we prepare for those moments and how we deal with those moments. They're not coming together for us, and I'm not going to try to make excuses in that regard."Roethlisberger and Tomlin both downplayed the notion that the quarterback's right shoulder and rib injuries sustained in November are affecting his play.Roethlisberger missed three games, and since he's come back, he's thrown six interceptions and four touchdown passes in three games -- all losses."We can talk about that in the offseason, maybe, but I feel good enough to play," Roethlisberger said.There have been times over the past three games that Roethlisberger's arm didn't appear as strong as usual and he was badly off on throws he typically makes. But there also are examples he was the same old Big Ben.Against Dallas, for example, he lofted a ball more than 50 yards in the air to Mike Wallace to set up a tying second-half touchdown. Earlier in that game, he scrambled and avoided multiple sack attempts to find an open Heath Miller for a score just before halftime."The only reason we're in that game is because of his play," safety Ryan Clark said. "The only reason he had an opportunity to throw an interception at the critical moment is because he played so well to keep us close."Still, Roethlisberger has largely built his career not on eye-popping numbers but on clutch play.When asked about why this season has been so much different, Wallace shrugs and maintains that Roethlisberger is the same at practice and in the huddle."You can't be perfect every time," Wallace said. "You can't be a superhero every time."Maybe, but Roethlisberger was far from it late in this season -- and as a result, the Steelers will spend January at home."I not worried about Ben," Miller said. "He's one of the best quarterbacks in the league -- in my mind, he's still there. And I wouldn't want anybody else to be leading this team."Notes: The Steelers placed Miller, CB Ike Taylor and RB Baron Batch on injured reserve Wednesday and signed TE Jamie McCoy, S Damon Cromartie-Smith and LB Marshall McFadden to the active roster. Miller, who tore knee ligaments Sunday, will have surgery Wednesday.

What Celtics have to offer in potential trade

What Celtics have to offer in potential trade

BOSTON – Between now and Thursday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline, the Boston Celtics are going to have conversations involving most if not all their assets. 

Here’s a look at what the Celtics have to offer as part of a potential trade, broken down between draft picks and the rights to players.

DRAFT PICKS

2017

-Own first round pick (have the right to swap for Brooklyn’s first-round pick)

-Own second round pick (top-45 protected; will be conveyed to Brooklyn if Celtics swap first-round picks with the Nets this year).

-Minnesota’s second round pick

-Cleveland’s second round pick

-Los Angeles Clippers’ second round pick

2018

-Own first round pick

-Brooklyn’s first round pick

-Own second round pick (top-55 protected; if it falls outside of that range, will be conveyed to Oklahoma City).

2019

-Own first-round pick

-Memphis first round pick*

-Los Angeles Clippers first round pick (top-14 protected; pick can only be conveyed to Boston two years after the Clippers convey a first-round pick to Toronto which is likely to happen this year).

-Own second round pick (top-55 protected; if it falls outside of the top-55, pick will be conveyed to Memphis).

-Detroit second round pick

2020

-Own first round pick

-Memphis first round pick*

-Los Angeles Clippers first round pick (top-14 protected; conveyed this year if it wasn’t sent Boston’s way in 2019).

-Own second round pick

-Miami second round pick

2021

-Own first round pick

-Memphis first round pick*

-Own second round pick

2022

-Own first round pick

-Memphis first round pick*

-Own second round pick

-Los Angeles Clippers second round pick (If first round pick not conveyed to Boston by 2020, Clippers will send the Celtics their 2022 second round pick).

*This pick from Memphis will be conveyed to Boston two years after the Grizzlies send a first-round pick to Denver. The pick is top-6-protected in 2017 and 2018, and is unprotected in 2019. The pick Boston will receive from Memphis is top-9 protected in 2019, top-7 protected in 2020 and unprotected in 2021.

RIGHTS TO PLAYERS

Guershon Yabusele

Size, position: 6-foot-8 power forward

How acquired by Boston: Drafted by the Celtics in the first round of the 2016 NBA draft, 16th overall.

Statistics this season: Yabusele is playing with the Shanghai Sharks of the Chinese Basketball Association. He is averaging 21.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game.

Ante Zizic

Size, position: 6-foot-11 power forward/center

How acquired by Boston: Drafted by the Celtics in the first round of the 2016 NBA draft, No. 23 overall.

Statistics this season: Playing for Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul led by ex-NBA coach David Blatt, Zizic has averaged 10.3 points and 67.3 percent shooting from the field. 

Abdel Nader

Size, position: 6-foot-8 shooting guard/small forward

How acquired by Boston: Drafted by the Celtics in the second round of the 2016 NBA draft, 58th overall.

Statistics this season: Playing for Boston’s Gatorade-League affiliate the Maine Red Claws, Nader was named to the G-League’s all-star team in large part because of his 22 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game average this season.

Marcus Thornton

Size, position: 6-foot-4 shooting guard

Status: Drafted by the Celtics in the second round of the 2015 NBA draft, 45th overall.

This season: Playing for Consultinvest VL Pesaro in Italy-Serie A, Thornton is averaging 11.9 points, 1.5 assists and 1.9 rebounds.

Watch Tom Brady's daughter Vivian tear it up on ski slopes

Watch Tom Brady's daughter Vivian tear it up on ski slopes

Tom Brady's daughter Vivian is a natural on skis.

The New England Patriots quarterback and apparently proud father posted a comical video of his 4-year-old daughter tearing it up on the ski hill. Vivian took on the bottom section of the run while adhering to the all-important instructions from the Super Cool Ski Instructor from the Comedy Central show, "South Park."

Brady added the audio from the "South Park" ski instructor to the video of his daughter skiing, and included a joke about "french frying" and "pizzaing" at the correct moments. 

"That’s my girl! Pizzaing when she's supposed to pizza, French frying when she's supposed to French fry... NOT having a bad time!!" Brady joked on Instagram.