On the Steelers: Roethlisberger headed for most passing yards in team history
Ben Roethlisberger gets ready for practice Tuesday as the Steelers deal with a short week before heading to Tennessee.
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Ben Roethlisberger, the youngest quarterback to win a Super Bowl, is about to break one of the Steelers' most-cherished and long-standing records.
He's within a tee shot of passing Terry Bradshaw to become the most-prolific passer in team history. Roethlisberger needs 300 yards to eclipse Bradshaw's club record of 27,989 yards set in 14 seasons. This is Roethlisberger's ninth season.
"It's an awesome honor, you know?" Roethlisberger said after practice Tuesday. "Shoot, a storied franchise and he's The Guy, the face of this. I know there's a lot of '70s Steelers, but, when you're talking about quarterbacks and offense and stuff, he's the guy. To have an opportunity to break another record -- and this one is a pretty big one."
It could happen Thursday night in Nashville. The Tennessee Titans defense ranks 29th overall in the NFL, 25th against the pass (279.6 per game). Roethlisberger threw for 384 in Oakland this season, his 21st 300-yard game. It is highly unlikely it would happen at Heinz Field because the Steelers play in Cincinnati next.
"Personal records, other than Super Bowls and wins, are not big things to me, but it is an awesome honor because it's him and it's a big record," Roethlisberger said. "You would like to do it at home in front of your fans because they're family, but to do it in general is a neat thing."
Roethlisberger will set the record this year, and, by the time he's done, he might put it out of reach of future Steelers quarterbacks. At 30, he could have close to 50,000 yards passing before he finishes his career.
The game has changed since Bradshaw's era.
For most of the 1970s, offensive linemen could not hold at all and receivers could get bumped up and down the field until the ball was in the air. There also weren't the protections afforded quarterbacks in the pocket today.
Nevertheless, like Bradshaw, Roethlisberger became a rookie starter on a team that loved to run the ball. He became the only rookie in the history of the NFL to go 13-0 as a starting quarterback in 2004, when the Steelers ran 61 percent of the time.
"It's a credit for the hard work he put in over the years," said longtime backup Charlie Batch, born in Pittsburgh in 1974, the first Super Bowl season for Bradshaw. "In the early years, it was more run-oriented, when we were 60 percent run vs. the pass, and he evolved to that point where he wanted to be and proved to the coaches he can carry the burden on his shoulders."
The offense has opened up plenty for Roethlisberger through the years. He's well on pace to have his third 4,000-yard season in the past four. He already owns the team passing records for top two seasons in yards, most in a game, most 300-yard games, most completions in a game, season and a career. He has the best game, season and career completion percentage, and he has the top six spots in season-passer ratings.
Now he's set to add the big one.
"For this organization, that's as high as it gets," veteran backup quarterback Byron Leftwich said. "It's hard to think of the Steelers without thinking about Bradshaw. He was the quarterback of all those Super Bowls they won. Once he breaks that record, it'll be Ben they're talking about. It's a little bit more special and shows what kind of player he is."
What isn't or hasn't been special is the relationship between Roethlisberger and Bradshaw, who was forced into retirement after the 1983 season because of an elbow injury. Bradshaw, from his perch on the Fox game day set, has been critical at times of Roethlisberger, some might say in a petty way. An intermediary has been trying to get the two together.
"We haven't talked," Roethlisberger said of recent events. "I've never had an issue [with him]. He said a bunch of things in the past about me; it hurts a little bit when you think about family, but I've never been one to say anything to him or at him."
Roethlisberger said he hopes Bradshaw is as excited about him breaking his record as is he that Zac Dysert is within 584 yards of breaking his Miami University record of 10,829 career yards passing.
"I'm happy for him," Roethlsiberger said. "Records are meant to be broken. I think that's great. I'm excited for him to get that.
"I think that Terry's excited, but I don't know."
After Roethlsiberger passes Bradshaw's yardage mark, there's only one quarterback record left that he'd like to have above others -- Super Bowl victories.
"That's the most important," he said. "That's the only one I really care about. That's always been No. 1."
Tight end Weslye Saunders pays closer attention to what he passes through his mouth these days. He said he paid attention last year, too, but made one mistake when he took the stimulant Adderall.
"I actually only had taken it one time last year," Saunders said Tuesday. "Out of the maybe 10 or so drug tests I had last year, I tested positive once. I knew then not to take it, It was a mistake than happened, and I'm ready to move on."
Saunders rejoined the team after serving a four-game suspension spread over five weeks for testing positive for a substance the NFL has banned. He worked out during that time in Arizona. The Steelers have a roster exemption for him, but they are not likely to activate him for the game Thursday. They must make a roster move by 4 p.m. Friday if they add him to their 53-man roster.
"I don't take any supplements, I don't even take Advil," said Saunders. "If you asked me to look at the list of things -- excessive amounts of caffeine and stuff -- you're really not sure; if you're not sure, don't do it, so I don't take anything."
Troy Polamalu and LaMarr Woodley did not practice Tuesday. James Harrison, Rashard Mendenhall and Stevenson Sylvester were limited in practice.
First Published October 10, 2012 12:00 am