STA­DIUM RE­VAMP EYED Steel­ers look like team to beat IN CAL­GARY GAMES BID af­ter ral­ly­ing around Big Ben NFL FINES TI­TANS BYARD FOR CEL­E­BRA­TION

Pitts­burgh lean­ing on chem­istry for play­off push

Winnipeg Free Press - - SPORTS - WILL GRAVES

ITTSBURGH — Ben Roeth­lis­berger was still in the process of pick­ing him­self up off the Heinz Field turf when the scrum started, one that sent a mes­sage that at the mo­ment it might be un­wise to mess with the Pitts­burgh Steel­ers.

Steel­ers cen­tre Mau­r­kice Pouncey and right guard David DeCas­tro were not par­tic­u­larly pleased with how Carolina safety Eric Reid launched him­self at Pitts­burgh’s fran­chise quar­ter­back as Roeth­lis­berger fin­ished off an 18-yard scram­ble dur­ing the third quar­ter of a 52-21 dis­man­tling of the Pan­thers on Thurs­day night.

To­gether, the two peren­nial Pro Bowlers — a com­bined 630 pounds give or take a meal — let Reid and a hand­ful of his team­mates know they didn’t ap­pre­ci­ate Reid’s ap­proach to his job. What fol­lowed was 30 sec­onds of flex­ing, grab­bing and shov­ing be­fore Reid was ejected for tar­get­ing.

“You’ve got to be there for your guy,” DeCas­tro said. “Just try­ing to stand up for him and show him we’ve got his back.”

As the Steel­ers made their way back to the hud­dle, Roeth­lis­berger gave his line­men peace of mind should the NFL de­cide to hit their wal­lets af­ter stick­ing up for him.

“Ben came up af­ter and said, ‘If any fine gets handed out, I’ll han­dle that,’” Pouncey said with a laugh.

Pouncey, in the fourth year of a five-year con­tract that will pay him

US$44 mil­lion, can cer­tainly af­ford to write the check. He be­lieves the fact he won’t have to if it comes to that says a lot about Roeth­lis­berger — and a lot about the cur­rent cli­mate within the Pitts­burgh locker room.

“It’s cool man,” Pouncey said. “I ap­pre­ci­ate all the guys rep­ping like that.”

Those guys have found their iden­tity over the last five weeks. Pitts­burgh

(6-2-1) set a record for the most points by an NFL team in the 17-year his­tory of Heinz Field while rolling to a fifth straight vic­tory. The re­ward? Five days off to rest up be­fore start­ing a daunt­ing fi­nal stretch that be­gins

PNov. 18 in Jack­sonville in a play­off re­match that saw the Jaguars stun Pitts­burgh at home in Jan­uary.

“Last year is last year,” Steel­ers cor­ner­back Mike Hil­ton said. “We’re a dif­fer­ent team just like they’re a dif­fer­ent team.”

If any­thing, Pitts­burgh looks much bet­ter than it did while get­ting pushed around by Leonard Four­nette and Blake Bor­tles in a con­fi­dence-shak­ing 45-42 set­back that led to an ex­o­dus in both the sec­ondary and por­tions of the coach­ing staff.

Randy Ficht­ner took over for Todd Ha­ley as of­fen­sive co-or­di­na­tor and, even with star run­ning back Le’Veon Bell sit­ting out due to con­cerns with his one-year con­tract, has put to­gether an at­tack that looks as dynamic and var­ied as any­thing in the league.

James Con­ner, Bell’s re­place­ment, al­ready has 11 touch­downs through nine games, as many as Bell has scored in any full sea­son. Roeth­lis­berger spread the ball all over the place on a night he fin­ished with more scor­ing passes (five) than in­com­ple­tions (three).

“We’ve got a lot of weapons on this team and Ben showed it tonight get­ting the ball to all of them,” DeCas­tro said.

Roeth­lis­berger’s only com­plaint is that Ficht­ner may get a lit­tle too loud in the head­set be­cause he’s so pumped up about the next play call.

Pitts­burgh’s de­fence kept Carolina’s Cam New­ton un­der wraps, sack­ing him five times while lim­it­ing the Pan­thers to 242 yards, the fourth straight game an op­po­nent has fin­ished with 275 yards or less. Save for a cou­ple of early com­mu­ni­ca­tion break­downs that al­lowed Pan­thers run­ning back Chris­tian McCaf­frey to get loose, the Steel­ers kept things tight.

“I don’t think it’s a come-to-Je­sus mo­ment where some­thing mirac­u­lously just hap­pened,” de­fen­sive tackle Cam Hey­ward said. “I think every­body got back to work. It showed on the prac­tice field and it showed ever since.” CAL­GARY — A po­ten­tial Cal­gary bid for the 2026 Win­ter Games in­cludes a plan to make the city’s ag­ing foot­ball sta­dium more ac­ces­si­ble to peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties.

Fer­gal Duff, with the Cal­gary 2026 Olympic and Par­a­lympic bid cor­po­ra­tion, said ren­o­va­tions on McMa­hon Sta­dium are es­ti­mated to cost $80 mil­lion out of the $500 mil­lion ear­marked for re­fur­bish­ing ex­ist­ing venues.

An­other $400 mil­lion is ex­pected to be spent on a new field house and mid-sized arena.

McMa­hon Sta­dium was built in 1960 and was the venue for the open­ing and clos­ing cer­e­monies dur­ing the 1988 Cal­gary Olympics. NASHVILLE — The NFL has fined Ten­nessee Ti­tans safety Kevin Byard US$10,026 for cel­e­brat­ing his end-zone in­ter­cep­tion on the Dal­las Cow­boys star logo at mid­field.

Byard said Fri­day the fine was ac­tu­ally worth it, as the in­ter­cep­tion helped change mo­men­tum by deny­ing the Cow­boys a pos­si­ble touch­down.

The 2017 All-Pro safety copied what Ter­rell Owens did 18 years ago in a win over the Cow­boys in old Texas Sta­dium. The in­ter­cep­tion was the sec­ond this sea­son for Byard and his 10th since the start of the 2017 sea­son, ty­ing him for the most in the NFL in that span.

JEFF SINER / CHAR­LOTTE OB­SERVER FILES

Steel­ers quar­ter­back Ben Roeth­lis­berger avoided in­jury af­ter a leap­ing tackle by Pan­thers safety Eric Reid dur­ing Thurs­day’s game in Pitts­burgh. Reid was ejected for tar­get­ing.

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