Big Ben accepts blame for Steelers' loss to Bengals, moves forward

PITTSBURGH -- He didn't blame the wide receivers for running incorrect pass routes, even if one of them seemed to be singling him out. He didn't blame the special teams for allowing a third costly kickoff-return touchdown in the last four games.

He didn't argue with offensive coordinator Bruce Arians' decision to take over the play-calling during a hurry-up situation late in the game, when Ben Roethlisberger often is most effective while calling his own plays.

No, Roethlisberger says the Pittsburgh Steelers' biggest loss of the season was his fault, and his alone. The Steelers (6-3) are down one game to the Bengals (7-2) in the AFC North standings after losing to Cincinnati 18-12, and the two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback said he's the reason.

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"You know what? I had a bad day," Roethlisberger said Thursday, the first time he has talked to reporters since the game. "Everyone in here's had a bad day. ... I flat out had a bad day, and it's going to happen sometimes. It's just unfortunate that when the quarterback has a bad game, it affects the whole offense. That's why you can't afford to have too many bad games."

Roethlisberger hasn't had many of them. He has been in the NFL's top three in passing yardage most of the season, though he slipped to No. 7 after going 20 of 40 for 174 yards during a second successive loss to the Bengals.

Instead of breaking down what he did wrong, or figuring out why he couldn't consistently connect with his receivers inside the 20, Roethlisberger said he has long since shifted his focus to this Sunday's game against the Kansas City Chiefs.

"It's being able to look at it and move on and not dwell on it," Roethlisberger said. "If you dwell on it, I think it can carry over. Just being able to put it behind you, learn from the mistakes and say, 'Listen, don't let this happen again,' and hopefully it doesn't."

Roethlisberger didn't feel right warming up before the game against Cincinnati, but he initially believed he could play his way out of it during Pittsburgh's first series. He scrambled for 15 yards and a first down at the Bengals' 15, but the drive stalled and the Steelers settled for a field goal. The pattern for the day was set.

"I didn't feel great, my arm didn't feel good, and that first drive, we connected a few times, went down the field, had to scramble," Roethlisberger said. "I kind of thought, 'OK, shut that funk off.' And then it never quite came around."

Roethlisberger owns the NFL's second-best winning percentage among quarterbacks -- only New England's Tom Brady is better -- but he deferred when Arians decided to call the plays during Pittsburgh's final series. Late in games, Roethlisberger is usually at his best when calling his own plays out of no-huddle sets.

This time, Roethlisberger went 0 for 4 and the Steelers didn't gain a yard after taking over at their 33 with 1:56 remaining -- more than enough time to mount a winning drive.

"It's just something where I'll never second-guess Bruce and he'll never second-guess me," Roethlisberger said. "He wanted to call them, and I believed in him and the calls, and I just had to execute them."

Following the Steelers' first loss in their last 11 home games, Roethlisberger said something didn't feel right, mentioning the unseasonably warm weather and a subdued crowd. Wide receiver Santonio Holmes later seized on those remarks, saying if the quarterback felt that way, it's probably explains why the Steelers lost.

If Roethlisberger was bothered by Holmes' comment, he didn't show it Thursday. However, his 10-minute interview was unusual in that nearly all the questions were about a game played four days before and few concerned the Steelers' upcoming opponent.

The Chiefs' 2-7 record might explain that. In Pittsburgh, there seems to be more talk among the fans about whether injured safety Troy Polamalu (knee) will be ready for the Nov. 29 showdown with the Baltimore Ravens than there is about Sunday's game.

Still, Roethlisberger called the Chiefs "the biggest game of the season" because they're the next opponent. Polamalu agreed.

"If it's Ben or anybody, you can't take for granted the NFL and the challenge each team brings," Polamalu said. "I know there have been times, even my rookie year (2003) when we weren't very good, we felt we could still challenge anybody. I'm sure they feel the same way."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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