Ben Roethlisberger is running out of things to complain about.
In a good way.
The perennially banged-up Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback — who never met an injury he didn’t try to shake off — is spending less time running around the pocket and more time watching his receivers and running backs do the work in offensive coordinator Todd Haley’s short-passing game.
Call it “dink and dunk.” Call it a “Three Rivers” version of the West Coast offense. Whatever it is, it’s keeping Roethlisberger’s jersey clean and the Steelers humming.
“We have an offense that’s working right now, that’s all that matters,” wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders said. “No matter how we put up points, that’s what matters at the end of the day. It doesn’t matter what the offense is called.”
At the moment, “hot” comes to mind.
The Steelers (4-3) have won two straight heading into Sunday’s game against the New York Giants (6-2) and Roethlisberger is thriving. He’s on pace to set career highs in attempts, completions, touchdowns and quarterback rating.
Funny how that happens when you’re upright.
Haley’s system encourages the quarterback to get rid of the ball quickly to take the sting out of the pass rush, and after some very public growing pains — Roethlisberger was constantly under duress in the season opener against Denver — things have started to click.
Near the season’s midway point, Roethlisberger has been sacked just 13 times and is getting dragged down just once every 22 pass attempts. Compare that to his career average of one sack every 11 pass attempts and Pittsburgh’s offseason plan to keep its franchise quarterback healthy appears to be working.
Other than the typical bumps and bruises, the closest Roethlisberger has come to an actual injury is the sprained right ankle he sustained a couple weeks ago when he stepped on a lineman’s foot in practice.
“I feel great just like I did last year at this time,” Roethlisberger said.
He’s well aware things can change quickly. He took a beating over the final month of the 2011 season, getting his left ankle mangled in a win over Cleveland in December. Though he attempted to fight through it with his usual grit, he wasn’t quite the same and the Steelers lost to Denver in the wild card round of the playoffs.
Pittsburgh drafted guard David DeCastro and tackle Mike Adams with its first two picks in last April’s draft. DeCastro remains out indefinitely with a knee injury, but veteran replacement Ramon Foster has thrived in DeCastro’s absence and Adams is proving to be a quick study at right tackle in place of injured starter Marcus Gilbert.
The running game that struggled early in the season has caught fire under third-year back Jonathan Dwyer, who has topped 100 yards in each of the last two games.
And while Haley brought in new terminology that Roethlisberger likened to learning a new language, the fiery former Kansas City Chiefs coach also streamlined the blocking schemes. The result is less confusion. Having to work for only two seconds instead of five helps, too.
“We have to hold up in protection enough to have him make the reads, make the throws,” left tackle Max Starks said. “If it’s two, five, seven (seconds), it doesn’t really matter for us because our assignments are so much clearer than it was in the past where it kind of changed every single week.”
Roethlisberger remains one of the best in the NFL at improvising when things break down. His 7-yard touchdown strike to Heath Miller in a 24-17 win over Cincinnati two weeks ago looked like dozens of other busted plays in his career, Roethlisberger moving around the rush like a mischievous toddler avoiding his parents’ grasp while Miller shook loose in the back of the end zone.
The thing is, Roethlisberger doesn’t have to freelance as often. Haley puts a premium on letting the skill players do the work and the Steelers have one of the deepest receiving corps in the league. Thirteen players have caught passes this season, including little used tight end Leonard Pope and first-year fullback Will Johnson, both of whom hauled in touchdowns in last week’s 27-12 romp over Washington.
“We have a lot wider array (of plays) in the playbook where we’re so balanced teams don’t know which way to take us,” Starks said. “We can exploit things and keeps defenses more honest. Before they could pin their ears back and say, ‘they’re in sub, they’re in drop back, they’re going to pass the ball.’ They can’t do that now.”
NOTES: Steelers rookie NT Alameda Ta’amu apologized for his Oct. 14 arrest following a run-in with police on the city’s South Side neighborhood that resulted in more than a dozen charges, including several felonies ... The Steelers made room on the active roster for Ta’amu by releasing CB Damon Cromartie-Smith ... Safety Ryan Clark practiced on Wednesday and expects to play against the Giants. Clark left last week’s game against
Ben Roethlisberger is running out of things to complain about.
Harrison’s 4 hits leads Pirates past Rockies, 7-5
Josh Harrison had four hits, including a tiebreaking homer, to help the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Colorado Rockies 7-5 on Sunday.
MLB inducts newest members into Hall of Fame
Frank Thomas choked back tears, Joe Torre apologized for leaving people out of his speech and Tony La Russa said he felt uneasy.
Post 17 falls short of Area II championship
Sometimes getting a bad game out of your system is what a team needs.
Italy’s Nibali wins Tour de France
Vincenzo Nibali won the Tour de France on Sunday, becoming the first Italian in 16 years to triumph in cycling’s greatest race by chiseling a lead over his main rivals a few seconds at a time and dominating them in the mountains.
HERTZEL COLUMN: La Russa gives old pal Leyland a taste of Hall of Fame
Jim Leyland didn’t expect it, at least not yet, but there he was in Cooperstown, New York for this week’s induction ceremony.
Post 17 plays itself into Area II championship game: PHOTOS
The goal was simple for Post 17 Fairmont: Beat Bridgeport and advance to the state American Legion Tournament. But it left with more than a state tournament berth Saturday night at East Fairmont High School.
After beating Bridgeport, 11-8, Fairmont secured a spot in next week’s state tournament. But with one challenge down, Fairmont moved on to the next: Playing itself into an area championship game.
Knowing facts key to preventing sports injuries
Youth sports injuries have been on the rise in recent years, leading parents, players and coaches asking one thing: How can we prevent these things from happening?
A recent poll on the Times West Virginian website revealed that 41.8 percent of readers believe that there is no way to prevent injuries, while 26.47 percent said the best way to prevent injuries was to not play at all and 20.59 percent said that working hard was the best way to limit injuries.
HERTZEL COLUMN: Big 12 provides plenty of optimism
This past week the Big 12 held its annual media gathering in Dallas and served up a heaping portion of optimism for the 2014 season that is now upon us, West Virginia University opening its preseason practices on Thursday.
This is a time of year when no one has lost a game, not even Charlie Weis at Kansas, and it’s a time of year when opinions are more plentiful than tattoos in an NFL locker room.
Pirates fall victim to Rockies, 8-1
Nolan Arenado bounced back from a benching with three hits, including a home run, and the Colorado Rockies beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-1 on Saturday night.
Tyler Matzek pitched three-hit ball over seven scoreless innings. Drew Stubbs and Corey Dickerson also homered for the Rockies, who have won three straight.
Post 17 plays itself into Area II championship game
The goal was simple for Post 17 Fairmont: beat Bridgeport and advance to the state American Legion Tournament. But it left with more than a state tournament berth Saturday night at East Fairmont High School.
- More Sports Headlines
- Harrison’s 4 hits leads Pirates past Rockies, 7-5