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Bengals' Lewis calls Roethlisberger 'catalyst' of Steelers

Most everyone agrees the 2011 MVP race narrows down to Aaron Rodgers and -- well -- Aaron Rodgers. But Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis believes Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger deserves to be in the discussion.

"He is totally the catalyst of their offense and their football team," Lewis said Thursday, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer. "He makes (Chiefs linebacker) Derrick Johnson miss in the pocket last week and throws a perfect pass to a very well-covered tight end. He extends the play enough that the tight end was able to come open late, and he makes a perfect pass where only one guy can catch it. Those are things that maybe go unnoticed at times but are truly fine football plays."

Roethlisberger's numbers aren't in the same stratosphere as Rodgers', but the 29-year-old QB is quietly having another very productive season in what has been an underrated career. Through 11 games, Roethlisberger has thrown for 3,070 yards, 17 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. His 92.7 passer rating ranks him seventh in the league.

The Bengals sacked Roethlisberger five times in a 24-17 loss to the Steelers in Week 11. Cincinnati knows it might have to do even better than that when the teams meet again on Sunday.

"We got him five times but now we need to get him seven times," said Bengals defensive end Frostee Rucker. "You know you have to play consistent against a team like this because they make their plays but you've got to put the fire out."

The Bengals can go a long way in securing a wild card berth if they can find a way to knock off the Steelers at Heinz Field. Easier said then done, of course, especially with Roethlisberger playing at a high level.

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