Steelers offense still goes with Ben

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Is it just me or does the Steelers offense under Todd Haley look very much like it did when Bruce Arians was calling the plays?

Ben Roethlisberger takes the snap and drops back to pass ... Roethlisberger escapes pressure by stepping up in the pocket or rolling to his right or to his left ... Roethlisberger looks downfield ... he looks, he looks ... just when it seems as if there's no way he can make a play, Roethlisberger completes a pass for a first down.

It's obvious, isn't it?

Haley's offense, just like Arians' before it, will go as far as Roethlisberger carries it.

"I like to think I'm entering the prime of my career," Roethlisberger said last week at the South Side practice facility. "I'm really excited. I hope my best football is still to come and that leads to more Super Bowls."

It seems silly now, doesn't it, that we wasted so much energy during the offseason worrying about how Roethlisberger would take to Haley and the new offense. Roethlisberger is fiercely loyal to Arians. The two have homes in a golfing community on Lake Oconee in Greensboro, Ga. This summer, Arians called Roethlisberger "family. ... He's my other son. ... If the reason I'm not still coaching in Pittsburgh is because I was too close to Ben Roethlisberger, I'm cool with that."

Haley is known as more of a tough love coach. He has yelled at any number of quarterbacks on the sideline during games, not because he's a bully but because he's an intense competitor and that's his way of trying to make a player better.

It only was natural to wonder how that style would play with Roethlisberger, of whom Arians said in July, "Yelling at him -- especially on game day -- is the worst thing you can do."

"People really did make a big deal about it," Roethlisberger said, fairly bristling. "I heard Cris Carter [of ESPN] ask, 'Why doesn't Ben embrace the change and want to get better?' That's ridiculous. I'm all about getting better. I never said the change was going to be bad or good. I just said it was a change. It was what it was."

It turns out Haley and Roethlisberger have played nice.

For the most part, anyway.

"We had one little incident," Roethlisberger said.

It happened during the Denver game Sept. 9 when the Steelers were beaten, 31-19.

"I walked away. I'll leave it at that. I walked away," Roethlisberger said.

There was no carryover effect.

Haley and Roethlisberger made sweet music together last Sunday when the Steelers beat the New York Jets, 27-10, at Heinz Field. Roethlisberger completed 24 of 31 passes to 10 receivers for 275 yards and two touchdowns. It's a good thing he made so many plays because the running game was inept for the second consecutive week.

"It felt good," Roethlisberger said. "Not everything was clean, but it's early. I had to scramble around some and you'd like to avoid that. But the good thing about it is, when it happened, the guys were on the same page. They never quit on plays. They know I'll never quit on plays."

That was especially true on third downs. Roethlisberger leads all NFL quarterbacks after the first two games with a 146.8 passer rating on third down. There's not another quarterback I'd rather have throw an important pass.

"It doesn't matter who's calling the plays for him," Arians said. "He's a winner. He's an unbelievable competitor."

Roethlisberger agreed there isn't much difference between Haley's offense and Arians'. "There are times, maybe, when we don't have as many receivers on the field, but that's about it. We're using a lot of tight end packages and a lot of max protection. We've got a lot of great wide receivers. I think they're some of the best athletes we have on the team. We've got to be aware of getting those guys out there."

Roethlisberger would love to run the no-huddle offense more because he calls the plays and there always are three wide receivers on the field. If it were up to him, the Steelers would use it all day today against the Oakland Raiders in Oakland. Of course, Roethlisberger often fought that battle -- and lost -- with Arians. The Steelers used the no-huddle effectively for much of the Denver game but hardly used it against the Jets.

No matter who calls the plays -- Haley or Roethlisberger -- the Steelers offense will be even better if it can run the ball effectively. It averaged 2.9 yards per carry against Denver and 2.4 against the Jets. That's pretty weak.

Roethlisberger believes the run game will come around. He said he likes the offense's "potential."

"It's a great group to be with," he said. "Everybody brings something different to the table. Every year, new guys come in and they're fun. [Chris] Rainey makes me laugh every day. I love coming to work."

It's always fun the week after a decisive win. "The only stats that matter to me are wins and losses," Roethlisberger has said often.

Sure, he would love to throw the deep ball more. What great quarterback doesn't? He would love to use the no-huddle and call the plays. But the wins are what keep him going. His regular-season record as a starter is 81-34 for a .704 winning percentage, second only to New England's Tom Brady (125-38, .767) among active NFL quarterbacks.

"Somebody said to me the other day that it looks like I'm doing more dinking and dunking and sliding in the pocket," Roethlisberger said. "I don't feel like I'm doing anything differently. If guys are open on the check downs, I get it to them. I've always done that. I'm playing the way I always play."

The man gets no argument here.

Roethlisberger is making plays. Just like always. The Steelers will win a lot of games if he stays healthy and keeps making 'em. Just like always.

roncook


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