On the Steelers: Roethlisberger, Arian still thinking pass


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They think alike, Ben Roethlisberger and his offensive coordinator. So much so, the quarterback says, that both he and Bruce Arians wanted to pass more than they did during the 2010 season but did not for similar reasons -- pressure from others to run more often.

"If he were, I don't want to say 'allowed,' but his preference would be to throw the ball more, use the weapons we have and throw it," Roethlisberger said in an interview this past week with the Post-Gazette, his first since the Super Bowl. "Mine's the same way.

"But we both think the same in the no-huddle, that we call a lot more runs because we know that's what we're supposed to do. And I don't know if that's 'supposed to' from the fans, the media, the owner, who knows? But it's just a feeling that you have that we better run the ball some. So we do think alike in a lot of those ways."

Some fans and media often complain that the Steelers do not run the ball enough, even though statistically they've been one of the most run-oriented teams in the league through the years. It came to a head in January 2010 when Steelers President Art Rooney II expressed the same sentiments in an interview with the Post-Gazette and included coach Mike Tomlin as being on board with that philosophy.

"I think Mike and I certainly agreed coming off the season that we need to run the ball more consistently to get to where we want to get to," Rooney said. "So that's part of the thinking in the offseason: We need to figure out how to get better running the football.''

The Steelers ran 47.4 percent of the time in 2010 compared with 42.2 the previous season. They increased their rushing yards to 1,924 from 1,793, but their average dipped to 4.1 from 4.2 and their average gain on all plays decreased to 5.6 from 5.9 in 2009. They scored 375 points last season, seven more than in 2009. And, of course, they reached the Super Bowl last season while missing the playoffs in 2009 with a 9-7 record.

Arians' contract expired after the 2010 season, and, after speculation on whether he would return or not, he signed a one-year deal to coach the offense for a fifth season with the Steelers, eighth as an assistant coach with the team.

Roethlisberger was delighted to see him return.

"Obviously, a lot of negative things are said about Bruce. But not from me. I really respect Bruce. We have a great relationship. I know he'll be gone at some point pretty soon. It's just the nature of the beast. I was nervous about it being this year ...

"I was telling him, 'BA, I know you want to leave in part because you can retire, you can. Two, you want to leave because you're tired of all the crap you have to deal with. But I know that we're so young and talented on this offense, that intrigues you a lot.' And he said, 'You know you're exactly right.' It does intrigue him. So I am very glad he's back."

Roethlisberger said it's not as if he and Arians don't want to run the ball.

"It's funny because we'll go into some games with the intent of running the ball and establishing it because you do need to run the ball -- I'm not saying you should never run the ball. We do go in and establish that we have to run. But it's funny, it'll be like the fourth quarter and we'll be down or something and Mike will come to me and BA and be like, 'OK, have at it, start throwing the ball.' It's like 'all right it's yours' and usually we go out and throw the ball and win the game.

"Who knows what it is? That's part of the politics probably in coaching, which is why I'm not a coach. I'm just a player. I do what I'm told."

Among other topics Roethlisberger discussed in the interview:

• "I enjoy the no-huddle offense. Those are the times I call the plays and go on the sideline and talk to BA. Last year, I didn't think we did it enough. The year before, I thought we did a lot of it. For whatever reason, maybe it was because we had so many young guys ... I think this year we'll be a lot better at it and do it a lot more."

• On the lockout by the owners: "Drew Brees I think said it the best -- it's not really affecting him as much as it affects players who came before him and after him. That's so well said I think I'm going to start saying it.

"I just hope the leaders on both sides find a way to get the most popular sport in America back going. And I hope it's fair for both sides. People ask when I think it will get done. I have no clue."

• He plans to work with his receivers and perhaps some rookies if the lockout continues. They will move around to various sites where the players live in the offseason.

"I've been in contact with them ... just to let them know if this thing keeps going, be ready at the end of April, first of May, we're going to get together and just throw, catch up and keep fresh. Nothing crazy."

• On whether new rules to keep the game safe might reduce his effectiveness if the officials blow an early whistle when a defender has him in the grasp:

"They don't blow many whistles against me, it doesn't seem like. People ask me all the time: What do you think of the no-calls? I really don't complain too much for that reason, I don't want them to blow the whistle too much if I'm going to make a play. I think that there's still a line that has to be crossed with blatantly late hits and stuff like that -- I don't think they ever called anything in my favor last year.

"I don't like to complain much or make excuses. They want to protect guys -- Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, those kinds of guys. Because in all seriousness -- and in no way do I hope anybody takes offense who reads this for the rest of the Colts, Patriots and Saints -- but nobody wants to watch the Indianapolis Colts if Peyton Manning's not playing, nobody wants to watch the Patriots if Tom Brady's not playing. If the backups are in there, they don't want to watch that game; they want to watch Peyton and Tom."

• On what the Steelers offense needs from the draft.

"We have a good group of young guys. We have a few older guys, but, if you think, for the most part we're a good, young group. So I think the biggest thing is to get depth at each spot. If you look at the line, we have to get depth there.

"The receivers, we have a great young group. Hines [Ward] is there, and he's going to keep leading these guys. I think if he stays healthy, he's going to keep doing what he does. But we still have to bring in depth there, too, because at some point Hines will retire -- I don't know when, but I assume he's going to retire at some point. He's been doing it for a long time.

"Just add depth. Every spot you can go, even at running back we can add depth."

• His impressions of Ward competing on "Dancing With the Stars":

"I was shocked because even he'll admit and has admitted to us that he has no rhythm and can't dance but, obviously, he's doing great. I joke with him and say it's just a popularity contest, it has nothing to do with how good you can dance.

"Because his smile is contagious and he has so much charisma and he's a Steeler and it's football and they go so far, my bet is he'll be in the finals and it depends on who he's against if he wins. But I think he has a good chance of winning."


Ed Bouchette: ebouchette@post-gazette.com . Follow him on Twitter @EdBouchette.


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