Great competitors are driven more than people can even imagine, almost to the point that the complete disdain for failure is consuming.
Ben Roethlisberger is one.
Whether he’s playing shuffleboard in the locker room, pickup basketball or football, the Steelers’ quarterback doesn’t like to lose. Failure is not in his vocabulary.
That’s what made last week’s 27-24 overtime loss at Dallas so difficult for Roethlisberger. He felt like he cost his team the game.
While Roethlisberger’s interception on the second play of overtime was the determining factor, the Steelers made plenty of other errors that cost them.
Linebacker Larry Foote missed a sack of Dallas quarterback Tony Romo that would have taken the Cowboys out of field goal range early in the game.
With the Steelers leading 24-17, wide receiver Antonio Brown fumbled a punt that Dallas recovered at the Pittsburgh 45 to set up a game-tying touchdown.
There were certainly other mistakes, as there are in every NFL game, but those led directly to points for the Cowboys and put the Steelers in the situation they find themselves in today.
Even if the Steelers had won in Dallas, they would still be in the same situation – needing to beat Cincinnati to make the playoffs.
The only thing that would have changed would be the public perception of this game and this team.
Because they lost to the Cowboys after a listless performance at home the previous week against San Diego, the Steelers are seen as a team in a free fall.
Cincinnati, meanwhile, is viewed as a team playing well because it has won five of its past six, even though the Bengals lost at home two weeks ago to Dallas and played lackluster in a win at Philadelphia.
Somehow, everyone has forgotten the Steelers thoroughly dominated the Bengals in Cincinnati Oct. 6, outgaining them 431-187 in total yards in a 24-17 victory.
That brings us back to Roethlisberger.
Prior to last week, the Steelers have lost two games in a row started by Roethlisberger just twice since 2007. There’s a reason for that. He’s the type of competitor who will find a way to will his team to victory, especially following a poor performance or one in which he feels like he was the reason they lost.
Roethlisberger is feeling that way this week.
The Steelers are 3-point favorites to beat the Bengals, a team against which Roethlisberger owns a 14-4 record.
He will find a way make that record 15-4.
Take Pittsburgh, 26-21
San Francisco (plus 2 ½) at Seattle
The Seahawks have won their past two games by a combined 91 points, something no team has done since the 1941 Bears.
Take Seattle, 23-20
Tennessee (plus 10½) at Green Bay
Packers have NFC North, but still have an outside chance at getting a week off in the postseason.
Take Green Bay, 34-17
New Orleans (plus 3) at Dallas
The Saints won’t make the playoffs but can play a spoiler role.
Take New Orleans, 34-30
New England (minus 14) at Jacksonville
Patriots are coming off a loss, and the Jaguars are looking at the No. 1 pick in the draft. A perfect storm.
Take New England, 45-6
Indianapolis (minus 6) at Kansas City
Indianapolis can wrap up a playoff spot with a win. Better do it this week because another match with Houston looms.
Take Indianapolis, 24-13
Washington (minus 4) at Philadelphia
Doesn’t matter if RGIII or Kirk Cousins starts for Washington.
Take Washington, 27-17
St. Louis (plus 3) at Tampa Bay
Two teams playing for draft positions.
Take St. Louis, 24-20
New York Giants (minus 1) at Baltimore
Free-falling Ravens stuck in a Tom Petty song.
Take Giants, 27-16
Minnesota (plus 7) at Houston
Texans will slow down Adrian Peterson’s record-setting pace.
Take Houston, 31-14
Cleveland (plus 12) at Denver
Broncos have won nine in a row. Cleveland hasn’t won nine games in a season since 2007.
Take Denver, 34-13
Chicago (minus 5½) at Arizona
Cardinals finally stopped a nine-game losing streak last week against Detroit. Start a new one this week.
Take Chicago, 20-13
Oakland (plus 8) at Carolina
Panthers have turned it on of late, which is likely enough to save head coach Ron Rivera.
Take Carolina, 28-17
Buffalo (plus 5) at Miami
Dolphins are playing hard for head coach and W&J grad Joe Philbin.
Take Miami, 23-16
San Diego (plus 3) at New York Jets
Should the Jets be giving points to anyone?
Take San Diego, 20-13
Last Week: 10-5 ATS; 10-5 Straight up
Overall: 92-107-6 ATS; 134-85 Straight up
F. Dale Lolley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.