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fordfixer
10-08-2008, 01:24 AM
Big Ben comes up 'empty'
By Mike Prisuta
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Monday, October 6, 2008
http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsbu ... 91874.html (http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/s_591874.html)


JACKSONVILLE -- Although he’s been battered and bruised in recent weeks, Ben Roethlisberger had no reservations whatsoever taking snaps in formations that featured "empty sets" and afforded no protection whatsoever for the Steelers’ quarterback beyond what his offensive line could provide.

"No, I was calling them," Roethlisberger said. "I like it."

With the Steelers running their no-huddle offense "almost the whole game," in Roethlisberger’s estimation, they wound up relying upon empty sets more than they had all season in Sunday night’s 26-21 victory over the Jaguars.

"By far," offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said. "Maybe all of last year, too. We knew they were struggling with their secondary injured. They actually took the one cornerback out and put the linebacker back in and kind of dictated zone coverage.

"You could get the ball out quick, spread the field. Our line did a great job protecting and Ben handled the no-huddle beautifully."

The Jaguars, Arians said, never went with a five-defensive backs set after cornerback William James was beaten by wide receiver Nate Washington from an empty set on what became a 48-yard TD pass from Roethlisberger early in the second quarter.

Late in the fourth quarter, the Steelers attacked Jacksonville’s base defense on third-and-5 from the Jacksonville 8-yard line with 1:59 remaining with a personnel group that included two tight ends, two wide receivers and running back Mewelde Moore. They eventually ran their play from another empty set.

Roethlisberger’s 5-yard fade to wide receiver Hines Ward wound up winning the game.

No wonder Roethlisberger loves to operate out of an empty set.

"It spreads you out," he said. "You can kinda see who’s blitzing, usually. It utilizes weapons that we have, not just at wide receiver but at tight end and running back."

Roethlisberger was sacked three times and pressured on numerous other occasions.

But the empty sets repeatedly sparked the offense prior to Ward’s touchdown.

The Steelers ran seven plays from an empty set over the first two quarters.

Those plays resulted in one incompletion, two penalties against the Steelers and four completions that produced four first downs, 89 passing yards and one touchdown.

In the fourth quarter, the Steelers went back to the empty set.

Plays run form the empty look resulted in one sack, one penalty against Jacksonville, one incompletion and four catches for 35 yards and another score.

On the drive that won the game Roethlisberger went 3-for-3 for 24 yards and the game-winning TD while operating with an empty backfield.

"Ben is an amazing player," Jaguars cornerback Rashean Mathis said. "He makes plays that other quarterbacks probably wouldn’t, and in that last drive he definitely made some great plays."

Mike Prisuta can be reached at mprisuta@tribweb.com or 412-320-7923.