View Full Version : NEWS: Steelers, Big Ben clutch in no-huddle

12-17-2008, 07:58 AM
Steelers, Big Ben clutch in no-huddle
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Peter Diana/Post-Gazette


Ben Roethlisberger completed seven passes for 89 yards on the Steelers' winning drive Sunday in Baltimore.

Lost, perhaps, in the controversy surrounding Santonio Holmes' winning touchdown Sunday was how the Steelers arrived at that point.

They drove 92 yards against the second-best defense in the NFL in the closing minutes, using 12 plays, only one of them a run. Ben Roethlisberger, operating out of the no-huddle offense, completed seven passes for 89 yards on that magnificent drive in Baltimore, one of them an intentional spike to kill the clock.

On another day in which the Steelers' ground game gained little, it was not just their No. 1 defense that bailed them out. Roethlisberger passed for 246 yards against that ravenous Ravens defense with one touchdown and no interception.

It was much the same the previous week on a 67-yard touchdown drive by Roethlisberger against Dallas. And on Nov. 16 against San Diego when he completed 6 of 6 for 62 yards on a 73-yard drive that ended in Jeff Reed's winning field goal with 11 seconds left. And in Jacksonville, when an 80-yard drive ended with Hines Ward's touchdown catch with 1:53 to go. And in overtime against Baltimore the first time when his 24-yard pass to Mewelde Moore put them in position for Reed's winning kick.

Roethlisberger and the Steelers have made a habit this season of ditching their huddle and pulling games out near the end by throwing the football, prompting a question to coach Mike Tomlin at his news conference yesterday: Why can't they do that earlier in games?

"We'll do whatever it takes for us to win on a weekly basis," Tomlin replied. "It was needed at that time, no doubt. It's been good when called upon.

"But we've got to be capable of winning in a lot of ways, whether it's deliberate-huddle football, no-huddle, multiple wide receivers, one wide receiver, two tights, two backs, we've got to be able to move the ball and win in a variety of ways because that's what's going to be required.

"But at that time, no doubt, the no-huddle was needed and it worked for us."

Perhaps they will find more time to ride that horse as they prepare for the playoffs. The Steelers had one of the best running teams in 2005, ranked No. 5, and were only No. 24 in the passing game. Yet they stunned three consecutive playoff opponents on the road by throwing early, grabbed leads and then sat on them.

Then, on their way to victory in Super Bowl XL, it was called strategy. Today, such a move might be out of necessity. The Steelers rank 23rd in the NFL running the football, which would be their second-lowest since they joined the AFC in the 1970 NFL merger. Their passing game ranks 17th, not a lot higher but more than it has been in four of the past five seasons.

The Steelers ran for just 91 yards on 27 tries against the Ravens, 21 of those on four Roethlisberger scrambles. Their backs produced only 64 yards on 22 runs in that game.

Against Dallas, they managed only 70 yards rushing and Roethlisberger had 17 of those.

The ground game has not been the same since Willie Parker was injured early, injured again and then re-injured, nor since Rashard Mendenhall was lost. But a new running back has added to the offense, and he has done so both on the ground and in the air. Moore has caught 37 passes even though he had none through the first three games, and that's third-most on the team.

Moore poses something the Steelers have not had in years in their backfield, a threat to catch a pass. He was on the field during that no-huddle 92-yard drive, making the Ravens' defense respect his ability to run and catch.

Tomlin was asked yesterday what worked on that drive that did not earlier.

"It was just a function of guys making plays, feeling the urgency of the moment and wanting to deliver for the team," he said. "They pressured on that drive, they had pressured earlier. They dropped eight on that drive, they had dropped eight earlier. We protected. We threw the ball. We caught the ball. Really, there's no more depth to it than that."


NOTES -- Defensive end Brett Keisel "hopefully" will play Sunday, Tomlin said, after missing three games with a sprained knee, while Marvel Smith's situation is "status quo," which means he likely will miss a 10th consecutive game with back problems. Tomlin said "we came out of the game pretty healthy" and "this is as encouraging an injury situation as we've had in a while coming out of a football game." He did not mention anything about safety Ryan Clark, who was spotted at the South Side facility on crutches yesterday.
Ed Bouchette can be reached at ebouchette@post-gazette.com.
First published on December 17, 2008 at 12:00 am