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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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Derek Wolfe always wanted to be a Raven — now he gets his chance

Derek Wolfe always wanted to be a Raven — now he gets his chance

New Ravens defensive lineman Derek Wolfe has wanted to be a Raven at three separate times during his career. 

The first time was before he was drafted in 2012 when he thought the Ravens might pick him. The second time was before the trade deadline in the 2019 season, when he debated asking Broncos general manager John Elway for a trade to Baltimore. 

The third time was the charm. After the Ravens’ signing of Michael Brockers fell through, they moved quickly to sign Wolfe to a one-year contract. 

“I'm extremely happy,” Wolfe said. “Everything happens for a reason. When things are supposed to happen, they do, and I always felt like I would fit into that organization really well.”

Wolfe thought he’d missed his chance to be a Raven when the signing of Brocks was announced at the beginning of free agency. After the deal wasn’t completed, though, he and his agent moved quickly to get him to Baltimore. 

Once a deal looked possible with the Ravens, Wolfe’s only focus was to get to Baltimore by any means necessary.

“I said, ‘I really don't care about the money,’” Wolfe said he told his agent. “‘At this point, I just want to get on that team. That's the team I want to get on, I want to be on.’

Wolfe’s contract is worth $3 million guaranteed, though he’s eying a bit longer of a stay in Baltimore.

“I feel like if I can come in there and prove myself, then they'll extend me for a few years, and I could be a part of the organization for more than just one year,” Wolfe said. “I'm just going to stick to the plan and trust the process and hope that it all works out for me,” Wolfe said. “I really would love to bring another ring to the city – help bring a ring to the city.”

He’s coming off a career season in Denver where he registered seven sacks in 12 games — a year that was cut short because of a dislocated elbow. 

Injuries have been a bit of a bugaboo for Wolfe, who has played 16 games in a season just three times in his eight-year career and just once in the last five years. While the past isn’t kind to Wolfe’s injury history, he’s confident he’s turned a corner when it comes to health. 

“It's been a bumpy road, but for the most part I've actually been pretty healthy,” Wolfe explained. “These injuries just come...It was the same injury that was nagging, and I finally got that surgery that cleared it up. I dislocated my elbow, obviously, having the best season of my career, showing that I have a ton of football left, and then I go out there and dislocate my elbow. And I think that hurt me.”

Not only confident about his health, but he’s also got high hopes for his new defensive line, too. 

“It was just like, ‘You know what, man? I think we can have the best defensive line in the league, for sure, and we could break records,” Wolfe said. “We could break the rushing record – yards per rush, stuff like that.’ Those are the kind of goals that I like to set.”

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Recruiting Roundup: St. Albans WR Jaden Coffen picks up 7 offers in the last month

Recruiting Roundup: St. Albans WR Jaden Coffen picks up 7 offers in the last month

The college football recruitment process has been different this year due to the outbreak of coronavirus. Prospects have had unofficial visits to campuses canceled and college coaches have been unable to meet prospects face-to-face. Fortunately, these complications have not precluded many DMV student athletes from earning scholarship opportunities from top programs in the nation.

Here’s a look at some of the most recent offers.

Jaden Coffen | 3-star Athlete

Class: 2021

School: St. Albans

Offers: 19

Jaden Coffen is beginning to receive the recognition he deserves. The 6-2, 200-pound athlete from St. Albans is a two-way contributor for the Bulldogs, starring as both a wide receiver and defensive back.

In the last month, Coffen has picked up seven new offers, including those from Air Force and Appalachian State.

Caleb Coombs | 3-star Wide Receiver

Class: 2021

School: St. John’s

Offers: 15

Caleb Coombs is primed to have a monster senior season. The 6-1, 180-pound wide receiver found himself overshadowed by 5-star Rakim Jarrett last year, but in 2020, Coombs is expected to be the focal point of the Cadets’ aerial attack.

Coombs’ speed and route running ability has already caught the eye of many of the top programs in the country. Of his 15 offers, eight of them are from SEC schools, including Alabama and Tennessee.

Shawn Murphy | 5-star Outside Linebacker

Class: 2022

School: Stonewall Jackson

Offers: 28

Shawn Murphy is not merely one of the top underclassmen in the DMV, he’s one of the best in the nation.

Murphy is a tackling machine. His length, range and instincts allow him to chase the ball sideline-to-sideline, making plays all over the field. In the last month, the 5-star student athlete has picked up offers from Memphis, Texas A&M and Oregon.

Xavier Ricks | Defensive Tackle

Class: 2021

School: Good Counsel

Offers: 6

Xavier Ricks played a significant role in helping Good Counsel secure the WCAC championship in 2019. The belief within the Falcons program is Ricks will be a dominating force in 2020.

At 6-3, 275, Ricks has excellent size and displays great quickness for an interior defensive lineman, and coaches around the country are beginning to take notice. Ricks has recently been offered by Morgan State, Lehigh and Monmouth.

Alfred Darlington | Offensive Lineman

Class: 2021

School: Westfield

Offers: 1

Alfred Darlington is a road-grader at perennial powerhouse Westfield. The all-conference lineman is strong at the point of attack and displays an ability to seek and destroy linebackers at the next level.

Standing 6-3, 275-pounds, Darlington recently earned his first offer from Delaware State. It won’t be his last.

Maxwell James | Wide Receiver

Class: 2021

School: Lake Braddock

Offers: 7

The big play threat from Lake Braddock is making a run up the recruiting boards. In the last week, Maxwell James earned offers from Army West Point and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. In March, he also added Lehigh, Bucknell and the University of Tennessee at Martin.

Jaden Bradley | 3-star Wide Receiver

Class: 2021

School: DeMatha

Offers: 10

Jaden Bradley has been one of the hottest recruits in the DMV this off season. The 6-4 DeMatha Stags receiver has the length to snatch passes out of the air and offers from top programs.

In March, Bradley picked up UMass, Wake Forest, Towson and Georgetown amongst others.

Curtis Nixon II | Tight End

Class: 2021

School: Maret

Offers: 11

Curtis Nixon II is a two-sport stud at Maret School. When he’s not pounding the hardwood with Maret’s basketball team, he is catching game-winning touchdown’s for the Frogs football program.

Nixon has excellent length and athleticism which allows him to attack the ball at its highest point. He is just beginning to scratch the surface of how good he can be and programs are beginning to take notice. In March, Nixon earned offers from Princeton, Georgetown, Yale, ODU, Rutgers and Harvard.

Dezmond Williams | 3-star Defensive Back

Class: 2021

School: Ryken

Offers: 6

The stock of Dez Williams is on the rise. The defensive back has the size to match up with big wide receivers on the outside and the quickness to cover the slot.

Williams is growing; he’s added height and he is beginning to fill out his frame. In the last week, he has picked up offers from JMU and ODU, and the likelihood is more are on the way.

Terion Sugick | 3-star Defensive Tackle

Class: 2021

School: National Christian Academy

Offers: 17

Terion Sugick is one of the top interior defensive linemen in the region. He is stout at stopping the run and proficient at rushing the passer.

Sugick, who holds offers from 17 programs, recently dropped his top 5: Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Florida, Wake Forest and Maryland.

To be included in our next edition, please tag @RealChadRicardo in your offer posts.

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