October 29, 2012
Roethlisberger out shines RG III
By Ron Cook / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger says he doesn't read the newspapers or watch sports news on television. But he hears things. "I have some really close friends who will tell me something when they think I need to know it."
That's a good thing.
Someone told Roethlisberger last week that ESPN's Keyshawn Johnson predicted Washington Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III would outperform Roethlisberger Sunday at Heinz Field.
"I just thought, 'Hmmm. OK. We'll see,' " Roethlisberger said.
So we did.
The Steelers beat the Redskins, 27-12, in large part because Roethlisberger was better than Griffin, the NFL's most-hyped player in a long time.
OK, since Tim Tebow last season.
Griffin is not your typical rookie and is light years better than Tebow. He was very good against the Steelers defense and would have been great if his receivers hadn't dropped as many as 10 passes. The defense never rattled him. Neither did Heinz Field, which has been known to intimidate veteran quarterbacks. Griffin lived up to the pregame accolades. He's a wonderful quarterback.
But Roethlisberger was better. He completed 24 of 33 passes for 222 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. His passer rating was a strong 121.0.
Clearly, Roethlisberger has settled in nicely in first-year coordinator Todd Haley's offense, which brings us to something else Roethlisberger heard last week.
"People made a big deal of me calling it a dink-and-dunk offense," he said. "That's not a negative. Todd and I talked about it. We laughed about it. That is not a bad thing. We want to possess the ball and be a balanced offense. I think we're doing that right now."
Everybody knows Roethlisberger was close to former Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who refers to Roethlisberger as "my other son." They also know Roethlisberger was slow to wrap his arms around Haley in a warm embrace. Roethlisberger admitted he wondered if a change in coordinators was necessary. He also knew of Haley's reputation for getting in the face of his quarterback on the sideline and wasn't excited about playing for him.
The two had "one little incident" -- Roethlisberger's words -- on the sideline in the opening game in Denver. But other than that? Peace, harmony and four wins in seven games.
"It's getting better," Roethlisberger said. "We're developing a relationship. We're doing some good things on offense. We ran a good dose of the no-huddle today, which I really like because I feel like I see the field better. I like a lot of the things we're doing. I don't have a problem with Todd, and I don't think he has one with me. We get along just fine."
Haley was the first to greet Roethlisberger with a tap on the helmet when he walked to the sideline in the game's final minute. Coach Mike Tomlin was there as well with a pat on the backside. It was no wonder. It was a really good day for the offense, not just for Roethlisberger, but for running back Jonathan Dwyer, who had his second consecutive 100-yard game with 107 rushing yards, and the offensive line, which kept Roethlisberger clean. He wasn't sacked and was hurried just one time.
Roethlisberger is off to a great start this season. He has thrown for 14 touchdowns with just three interceptions. His passer rating is 101.4, more than 9 points better than his career average of 92.1 coming into the season.
Haley deserves credit for all of that, but the best thing he has done with his quick-passing offense is keep Roethlisberger from taking so many hits. Roethlisberger said he feels "great" seven games into the season. His right shoulder doesn't hurt. His legs are good. His ribs are pain-free.
The fear of injury didn't stop Roethlisberger from running with the ball on the Steelers' next-to-last play in the final minute, avoiding a hit from safety Madieu Williams instead of just going down immediately. It was a stupid thing for him to do -- he's too valuable to the team to take any chances after a game has been decided -- but he said he had a goal in mind.
"I need to get to 1,000 rushing yards for my career. I wasn't just going to go down there."
Roethlisberger needed 17 yards going into the game. He still needs 11 going into the road game Sunday against the world champion New York Football Giants.
"I don't pay attention to many of my numbers, but I'm aware of that one," Roethlisberger said. "For not being a running quarterback, I think 1,000 yards is going to be pretty cool. It's funny, because you know me, I'm usually not into the numbers at all."
That isn't entirely true. Roethlisberger cares very much about his number of wins as the Steelers starting quarterback. Eight-and-a-half seasons into what's looking like a Hall of Fame career, he's 84-36 in the regular season, including 15-1 against NFC opponents at Heinz Field. He's also 10-4 in the postseason with two Super Bowl wins and a loss in a third Super Bowl.
That's why outplaying Griffin didn't thrill Roethlisberger nearly as much as two other numbers Sunday.