Big Ben lobbying Steelers' coaches for more no-huddle vs. Broncos
PITTSBURGH -- Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians hears Ben Roethlisberger's campaign speech so often, he probably can recite it.
It goes something like this: "You know, I think this would be a good week for the no-huddle."
Of course, Roethlisberger believes every week is a good week to run the offense he likes best.
"He's lobbied every week for it," Arians said Thursday.
No doubt Roethlisberger is especially eager to go to the no-huddle Monday night in Denver, given how much success the Baltimore Ravens had while running 31 plays out of no-huddle sets during their 30-7 victory over the Broncos last weekend.
The NFL is a copycat league, and the Steelers are aware of how the Ravens repeatedly kept the Broncos off balance by forcing them to keep their base defense on the field and preventing them from situationally substituting players.
"It's a possibility," Roethlisberger said. "We'll go into it with the mentality that we'll go in with the game plan we've got and, if we need to go into the no-huddle, we'll do it."
In the no-huddle, the quarterback gathers the team at the line of scrimmage immediately after a play ends, makes the next play call there and sets everyone up properly before taking the snap, often in a shotgun formation. Usually, there's not enough time for the defense to make substitutions.
"Baltimore ran the ball fairly good (out of the no-huddle)," Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward said. "They made plays ... but we're not going to go in with an identical game plan. We're going to go in with what works for us. We're us, and we're going to work with what we do best."
What the Steelers did best while beating the Minnesota Vikings 27-17 on Oct. 25 was, coincidentally, running their hurry-up offense. Their only offensive touchdown came during a 91-yard drive that lasted slightly more than a minute and ended with Roethlisberger throwing a 40-yard scoring pass to rookie wide receiver Mike Wallace with 24 seconds left in the second quarter.
While operating in the hurry-up, Roethlisberger completed 4 of 7 passes for 85 yards, with one incompletion coming when he spiked the ball. The rest of the game -- the Steelers used the no-huddle on that drive only -- Roethlisberger was 10 of 19 for 90 yards, partly because the Vikings kept using two safeties in deep zone coverage to discourage the pass.
"It's something Ben likes to do," Ward said. "It keeps defenses on their heels. ... We've got a great feel for it and we've had some success running the no-huddle. It's just a matter of whatever Ben calls, all 11 guys are on the same page and we move forward."
Arians said this earlier season that virtually the entire offense can be run from the no-huddle.
"He (Roethlisberger) can use almost 80 percent of the playbook in it, and he's gotten very proficient with it," Arians said.
Going to the no-huddle in Denver might be more difficult because the thin air discourages teams from keeping the same personnel groups on the field for extended plays. A receiver who runs deep patterns on three consecutive plays, for example, is more likely to feel tired in Denver than if he were running the same plays in a dome stadium.
While Roethlisberger agreed that it is different playing in Denver, Arians said he won't let the altitude affect his play-calling -- or whether the Steelers use the no-huddle.
"It's just a look that we use; we'll see how it goes, and this game is one in which it could show up a lot or it could not show up at all," Arians said. "We'll just see how the game goes."
The Steelers are running the ball less than they have in any season in their history except 1991, which means defenses long conditioned to trying to take away Pittsburgh's running game are increasingly playing a Tampa Two-like zone defense to discourage Roethlisberger from going downfield.
Using a no-huddle in Denver might help the Steelers get their running game going because it wouldn't allow the Broncos to put extra defensive backs onto the field on certain plays.
"We're trying to be balanced," Ward said. "If we can't run the ball, we're going to find whatever means we can to win ballgames. We're going to stick with what got us to 5-2. We don't worry about stats."