Big Ben, Steelers offense enjoy success



The season started out in horrific fashion for Ben Roethlisberger. In the middle, there was some tabloid drama. But, in the end, the 2013 season might best be remembered as the most prolific for the Steelers' franchise quarterback.

Roethlisberger is rewriting many of his records in what is turning out to be one of the best, if not the best, statistical season of his 10-year NFL career.

Roethlisberger already has set the team record for most completions in a season. Sunday, with at least 247 yards passing against the Cleveland Browns, he will set a team record for most passing yards in a season. Roethlisberger has thrown for 4,082 yards in 15 games and is looking to break the record he set in 2009 when he threw for 4,328.

He also has an outside chance to break the team record for most touchdowns passes in a season. He has 27, third-most he has thrown in a season. He set the record with 32 in 2007.

Roethlisberger isn't the only Steelers player setting or approaching franchise records in what is shaping up to be an historic offensive season. Receiver Antonio Brown set the season record for most receiving yards in a season last week when he passed Yancey Thigpen, who held the mark with 1,398 yards in 1997.

Brown has 1,412 receiving yards and needs 12 receptions against the Browns to break the season record for most in a season held by Hines Ward with 112.

Rookie running back Le'Veon Bell also has a chance to set the team record for most yards from scrimmage by a rookie.

"I think it's a lot of things," Roethlisberger said of the numbers the offense is putting up. "I think it's the hard work and effort we've put in. It comes down to the coach, the players and the play-calling. I just think guys have stepped it up and guys have jelled together."

Most of the offense's success has come in the second half of the season after offensive coordinator Todd Haley allowed Roethlisberger to use the no-huddle offense on a consistent basis. The team is averaging almost 30 points per game over the past eight games, and Roethlisberger and his teammates are posting some gaudy statistics.

"Our numbers in the second half of the season when we've been in the no-huddle and doing some of the things we're doing now, I feel like our numbers are getting better," Roethlisberger said. "If you look at numbers alone, I'd say it's pretty good.

"I think it's more than just me. I have to give credit to the coaches and the other quarterbacks because so much is done on the sideline. We're talking about so many things. The players are talking to me about the plays they like whether it's Heath [Miller] or Jerricho [Cotchery]. It's more than just me. It's all of us and being able to use the things they give me on the field makes us all better."

The no-huddle offense also has protected Roethlisberger. He has been sacked just 10 times in the past seven games after getting sacked 31 times in the first eight.

"When I'm calling the plays, I can call it off what the defenses are giving us," Roethlisberger said. "It's kind of that chess match. When Coach Haley calls a play, he doesn't know what the defense is going to give us. When I'm out there, I can see what the defense is giving us and I can call a play that I think can work against that specific defense. I've predetermined where I'm going to go with the ball because I can see the defense."

Roethlisberger and former offensive coordinator Bruce Arians were known to have a good relationship and trust in one another, but Roethlisberger said this is the most input he has had on an offense in his 10 years in the league. Roethlisberger also worked with Ken Whisenhunt when he was offensive coordinator in Roethlisberger's early seasons.

"All of the coordinators have been open to input, but this is probably the most they've accepted it, and we've used it and tweaked it and done things to benefit the team," he said.

Roethlisberger, who will turn 32 in March, is showing no signs of slowing down. Sunday will mark the second time in his career he has started every game in a season. He credited his offensive line for keeping him upright and said he feels better physically than he has in recent seasons.

"The goal is to always get better," he said. "I want to keep getting better physically and mentally. I still feel like my best football is ahead of me."

Ben Roethlisberger's 2013 numbers going into the Steelers' final game of the season Sunday and where it puts him on the franchise all-time single season charts:

Yards passing: 4,082 (2nd)

* Needs 246 to break his own record

Passing attempts: 553 (1st)

* Set record Dec. 15 vs. Cincinnati

Completions: 356 (1st)

* Set record Dec. 15 vs. Cincinnati

Touchdown passes: 27 (3rd)

* Needs five to tie his own record

Completion percentage: 64.4 (4th)

* 2.2 points off his own record


Ray Fittipaldo: rfittipaldo@post-gazette.com and Twitter @rayfitt1.

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