View Full Version : Passing grades for Steelers

10-21-2009, 01:18 AM
Passing grades for Steelers
By F. Dale Lolley, Staff writer, dlolley@observer-reporter.com

PITTSBURGH - A quick look at the NFL offensive leaders includes the list of usual suspects.

Saints? Check.

Cowboys, Colts and Patriots? Check, check and check.

Steelers? What?

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has taken the restrictor plate off the offense this season, and a unit that has traditionally been as conservative as the state of Utah is producing yards at a record pace.

That was on display Sunday, when the Steelers rolled up 543 yards in a 27-14 victory over the Cleveland Browns.

The yardage total, while a season-high, has hardly been an anomaly for the Steelers. Pittsburgh (4-2) is averaging 403.7 yards per game, a pace that would easily shatter the team record of 391.1 set in 1979.

"I just think we have to do what we can do," quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. "We're doing what we have to to win the game."

And that is control the ball, mostly by throwing it.

While the Steelers of 2008 won with a defense that led the league in yards against and scoring, this version has been winning with Roethlisberger throwing the ball around like no Pittsburgh quarterback has before.

"He frustrates a lot of defenses because you bring a bunch of guys and he's able to create plays," Cleveland coach Eric Mangini said of Roethlisberger, who leads the NFL with 1,887 passing yards after torching the Browns for 417.

"You drop a bunch of guys, you may give him too much time. He's elusive and he's strong. He's different than a lot of guys you face just by his arm strength, his elusiveness. He frustrates a lot of different guys and different defenses."

Roethlisberger is using different receivers to cause that frustration.

Veteran Hines Ward is having his best season, despite turning 33 this year. Ward leads the NFL with 599 receiving yards and his 41 receptions are tied for the lead. He has two touchdown receptions.

Only Indianapolis' Dallas Clark has more receptions among tight ends than the Steelers' Heath Miller, who's on pace to set a new standard for the position in team history. Miller ranks eighth in the league with 34 receptions, and his four touchdown catches are just one off the lead.

Santonio Holmes is eighth in receiving yards with 438 to go along with his 28 catches, and No. 3 receiver Mike Wallace leads all rookies with 296 yards.

It's been Roethlisberger as the trigger man who has made this work.

"We're putting the ball in his hands," said Ward. "When you talk about the elite, he's right up there. He's definitely displaying the talents and abilities to be a great quarterback in this league."

The air attack has led to a greater number of turnovers - the Steelers have 12 in six games after losing 25 last season.

That puts added pressure on a defense that saw All-Pro strong safety Troy Polamalu miss four games and will be without defensive end Aaron Smith for the remainder of the year.

"As long as we win, I don't care what they do," linebacker James Farrior said. "That's the bottom line, wins and losses."

Odds and end zones

The Steelers replaced the grass field between the hash marks from end zone to end zone following Sunday's game. ... Free safety Ryan Clark picked off his second pass of the season against Cleveland. Clark had just two interceptions in three previous seasons with the Steelers.