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Roethlisberger takes blame for Steelers collapse

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Roethlisberger takes blame for Steelers collapse

PITTSBURGH (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.

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Capitals stars react to losing Barry Trotz as head coach

Capitals stars react to losing Barry Trotz as head coach

LAS VEGAS—Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom weren’t expecting to lose their head coach less than two weeks after winning the Stanley Cup.

But business is business, Ovi said, and Barry Trotz is handling his by attempting to capitalize on claiming the championship.

“It’s sad,” Ovechkin said on the red carpet at the NHL Awards, where he accepted his seventh Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy on Wednesday night. “Obviously, we won together.”

The Caps’ captain also thanked Trotz for directing him—and his teammates—to new heights.  

“First of all, [I want to] thank him for a great job to be our coach, to be our dad, to give us a chance to win,” Ovechkin said. “But then again, it’s a business. You never know what’s going to happen. I’m pretty sure he’s going to be fine and I wish him luck.”

Backstrom, meanwhile, said he was caught off guard by Trotz’s decision to step down over a contract stalemate with the team. Trotz asked for $5 million per for five seasons; the Caps balked over the terms Trotz’s camp sought.   

“I was a little surprised, obviously,” Backstrom said. “I heard the scenario.”

Like Ovechkin, though, Backstrom praised the job Trotz did during his four-year tenure.

“He’s done a great job in Washington,” Backstrom said. “We obviously have him to thank for a lot. He’s done a tremendous job of schooling us and winning a championship. No one is going to take that away from him.”

Trotz’s next move is unclear, but he’s a free agent and currently eligible to negotiate with any team. The Islanders are the only team with an opening for a head coach.

As for Washington, GM Brian MacLellan said that associate coach Todd Reirden will get the first crack at replacing Trotz.

Ovechkin said he thinks Reirden would be a good fit.

“We all respect Todd,” Ovechkin said. “We all like him. Again, it’s not our thing to say who’s going to be head coach, but if it’s going to be Todd, it’s going to be fun.”

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A drawing of the moment Ovi lifted the Stanley Cup makes the moment joyful all over again

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Daniel Duffy on Twitter/@RealArtOfWords

A drawing of the moment Ovi lifted the Stanley Cup makes the moment joyful all over again

How do you make a photo of Alex Ovechkin hoisting the Stanley Cup for the first time even more memorable?

You make it out of all the Capitals' game scores this year, of course.

Capitals fan and artist Daniel Duffy (@RealArtOfWords) posted a phenomenal finished piece commemorating the Cup win on Wednesday, June 20. It's a little meta and astounding to look at, but very fun to try and read. If you want to relive the glory that was the parts of the 2017-18 Capitals season, check out the piece.

The piece, which appears to be done in a traditional medium like pen or marker, holds the team faced, arena played at, and final score of every game. It uses six colors and over sixty lines of text. Ovechkin roars as he holds the Stanley Cup overhead, the white away jersey shaded with bits of grey text. It takes a skilled eye to sort text and colors into shapes and shading, but Daniel did a fantastic job! It's awesome to see a fanbase create different interpretations of iconic moments. We'll surely see more of Ovechkin in this moment.

Just as we thought we were going to get tired of the celebration, fans find new ways to surprise us. Stay creative, Caps fans!

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