Ron Cook: A new Roethlisberger emerges
Ron Cook: A new Roethlisberger emerges
By Ron Cook / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
On Sunday, Ben Roethlisberger did what he does best as an elite NFL quarterback, throwing for two touchdowns and running for another, leading the Steelers to an unlikely, season-sustaining win against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. But on this Thursday night, he is at his North Hills home, doing some nice work as a father, changing a dirty diaper. Wife Ashley is off to the Penguins-Minnesota Wild game, the highlight of a girls night out. Roethlisberger is alone with Ben Jr., who turned 1 Nov. 21. The two are having a blast. Roethlisberger does the diaper thing with the same precision he threw the touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes to win Super Bowl XLIII.
"I love being a father," Roethlisberger said. "I love the responsibility. I love the patience it teaches you."
It makes for a wonderful holiday picture, Roethlisberger, such a big man, holding that baby boy in his arms. Soon, there will be another face in the family team photo. The Roethlisbergers are expecting a girl in March.
"I like the path I'm on," Roethlisberger said, "and I like who I'm on it with."
You think the Steelers might be on the verge of an amazing comeback, from an 0-4 start this season to a spot in the playoffs? The team has nothing on Roethlisberger, who has climbed out of a much deeper, darker hole. Wasn't it just yesterday that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended him for conduct detrimental to the league? Now, Roethlisberger is a finalist -- one of 32 -- for the NFL's most prestigious annual honor, the Walter Payton Award. He is the Steelers' nominee, not just because he's having, arguably, the best season of his career, but because of his community service. The award celebrates what really is important. Former Steelers Franco Harris, Joe Greene, Lynn Swann and Jerome Bettis won it, as did former Pitt and Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino. The Payton Award will be presented at Super Bowl XLVIII Feb. 2 in New Jersey.
"It's amazing the good things that happen to you when you grow up a little," Roethlisberger said.
He was accused of sexual assault in March 2010 in Milledgeville, Ga. Although he never was charged, his reputation took a brutal beating. He was suspended by Goodell for the first four games of the 2010 season. He made the cover of Sports Illustrated under the headline, "The Hangover: Bad Behavior, Bad Judgment." The story wasn't flattering and was even more jarring because, in the same issue, there was a piece about how Penguins star Sidney Crosby had developed into a terrific NHL captain at 22.
"I knew who I was and how I was raised," Roethlisberger said. "I also knew who I wasn't, if that makes any sense. I knew I could get to where I am today because I knew the type of person I wanted to be."
Roethlisberger called it a "challenging journey," not just saving his football career but also winning back the respect of his bosses, teammates and fans. It didn't happen overnight. He learned about patience long before Ben Jr. came along. But Roethlisberger kept working at it, one day at a time. It began with treating people better. There was his marriage to Ashley Harlan, a New Castle girl, in July 2011. There was the start of his family with the birth of Ben Jr.
But it was more than all that. Roethlisberger realized, finally, that his position as Steelers quarterback could fuel so much more than just his own sense of entitlement. He could use his platform to do such good for others.
Suddenly, the Ben Roethlisberger Foundation had a new, vital meaning.
Roethlisberger long has loved dogs. When Spike, a police dog in his hometown of Findlay, Ohio, was shot and killed in 2005, he took it personally. When Roethlisberger's father, Ken, suggested his son pay to replace the animal -- "Not just a dog, but a member of the police force!" Roethlisberger growled -- he jumped at the opportunity. That led to the purchase and training of dogs for police forces and fire departments in each city where the Steelers play, as well as in the Pittsburgh area. Roethlisberger's foundation has given out more than $1 million in grants for the dogs.
The Make-A-Wish Foundation also is important to Roethlisberger. He looks forward to the Friday visits to the Steelers' South Side headquarters, always amazed that meeting him and his teammates and watching a practice and a game can mean so much to people who are fighting such a tough battle just to survive. In the past two years, his foundation has donated more than $50,000 to Make-A-Wish.
"Don't get me wrong. The Payton Award is an awesome honor," Roethlisberger said. "But I don't need trophies or plaques or my name in the paper to feel good about it. For me, the gratification comes from the hugs from the kids, the smiles, the letters ...
"I was in Kiawah Island when an officer came up to me to thank me for getting a dog for his force. He practically hugged me. He was almost in tears. I realized then how important this stuff can be. That's what's important to me."
Roethlisberger grinned when the officer told him he was from Baltimore, of all places.
But this is about something so much bigger than just a fierce football rivalry between mirror-image cities, is it not?
"I guess this honor means so much more to me because a lot of people on our team do so much," Roethlisberger said. "So many of my teammates could have won it and probably should have won it. We have a great group here. I learned from Jerome [Bettis] and [Alan] Faneca. They are two of the best when it comes to doing charity stuff. Now, I'm trying to show the young guys how important it is. You'll hear a guy say, 'Ah, I didn't want to ask you do to something because I didn't want to bother you.' But it's never a bother. This is what we all love doing. It's what we all should be doing. That's why I try to go to as many events as I can. If I can possibly be there, I will be there."
Roethlisberger said he hopes his foundation continues to grow and thrive in Pittsburgh for many years.
"That's why when all that trade stuff started earlier this season, I made it clear I don't want to go anywhere. This is my home. I want to make a difference here."
On the field, sure. "I don't know how long I have left as a player or if I'll be injured, but I like to think I have at least five good years still in me," Roethlisberger said. "I definitely think we can win another Super Bowl or two. I like where this offense is right now. I like where my relationship is with coach [Todd] Haley. It's become a really good relationship. The last thing I want is for anything to change."
But making a difference off the field also is important to Roethlisberger. "I still feel like I have so much more to do. I know I'm not going to please everybody or change everybody's opinion of me and make them start liking me. That's OK. You can't get caught up in worrying about that. I worry about the people who do like me or love me and care about me. I'm putting all my energy into being the best person, best husband and best father I can be."
It's time for Ben Jr. to go to bed. Roethlisberger politely excuses them. The two are nuzzling as he closes the front door to his home.
At that moment, something is clear, something very good, something befitting of this Christmas morning.
Roethlisberger has come a long way.
People really can change.
Through it all. All the highs and all the lows. He's been my favorite. Article just brings a huge smile to my face. The guy has come full circle. From a young man, but barely a man. Loaded with talent and coming from a good home. A good family. Having great success right away. And then the fall. Turbulent and breaking. And the steady rebuild. Of a man. Of a player. And now, The Man. His family back where it should be. His career in full focus. Full circle.
A tip of my hat to you, Ben Roethlisberger.
It is amazing what good things can happen to you if you grow up a little...
I am very, very happy that Ben has learned this lesson...not just as the QB of the Steelers, but as a man and a human being in general...
Kudos to Benjamin Todd for getting it together and becoming the person he wanted to be...and should be...
Ben's Mind Matching His Athleticism
By Jim Wexell
Posted Dec 24, 2013
Ben Roethlisberger has kept his youthful athleticism and is adding a beautiful mind. He talks here about the jumping-off point to a better second half of this season.
PITTSBURGH -- Back in 2008, Ben Roethlisberger was sacked a personal-high 26 times in the first half of the season, and in 2009 he was sacked a personal-high 50 times all season.
The first record fell this season, and the second looked to be in peril until the Steelers changed their offensive philosophy.
The full-season record could still be matched, but only if the Cleveland Browns sack Roethlisberger nine times Sunday in the regular-season finale at Heinz Field.
That's doubtful, because after being sacked 31 times in the first half of this season, Roethlisberger has been sacked only 10 times in the last seven games, six times in the last six games.
It's a product of Roethlisberger's good health, the play of his offensive line, and his radically improved ability to get rid of the ball more quickly.
The latter factor has been boosted by the increased use of the no-huddle approach, which is partly a credit to offensive coordinator Todd Haley and partly a credit to Buffalo Bills defensive end Mario Williams.
"The Detroit game we were almost all no-huddle," Roethlisberger said of the change in philisophical approach. "That game, or maybe the second half of the game before that, Buffalo. That part of Buffalo we did a lot of no-huddle because we wanted to slow down Mario off the edge.
"Those couple games right there were probably the point where we all kind of said, 'OK, this is when we're at our best.'"
And the numbers support that -- in a big way.
In addition to the 31 sacks, Roethlisberger quarterbacked the Steelers to a 2-6 record, a personal W-L record that had been topped -- in a negative way -- only one other time: the first half of the 2006 season when Roethlisgberger's Steelers went 1-6 after he missed the opener.
Roethlisberger also recorded a passer rating of 88.5 the first half of this season, his worst first half since 2008 (79.6).
But then came Williams, the Bills, and the second half of this season. The no-huddle was broadened and the numbers have improved dramatically: 10 sacks, 5-2 record, 100.2 passer rating, and he still has the Browns, his personal whipping boys, yet to play.
It's the best passer rating Roethlisberger has posted in the second half of any season.
"I've got to give credit to the coaches and the other quarterbacks, because so much is done in the no-huddle on the sideline," Roethlisberger said. "We're talking about so many things. The players are coming up and talking to me about plays that they like, whether it's Heath (Miller), Jerricho (Cotchery), guys on the interior part of it."
Two weeks ago, Cotchery, the 31-year-old sage of the receiving corps, said that Roethlisberger's ability to get rid of the ball more quickly and more consistently than ever is a result of calling his own plays at the line ad knowing where he's going with the ball.
"Yeah, I would agree with that," Roethlisberger said. "When I'm calling the plays, I can call it off what the defense is giving us, so it's kind of like that chess match with coordinators. When Coach Haley calls a play, he doesn't know what the defense is going to give us. ... So when I'm out there I can actually see what the defense is giving us and I can change the play or call a play that I think is best to work against that specific defense.
"In that sense, yes, usually the ball will come out quicker because I've kind of pre-determined where I'm going to go with the ball."
Roethlisberger was asked if he considers himself "a more cerebral player" these days.
"I'd like to think so," he said. "There are still times that I make mistakes calling the play. I call the wrong play or I guess wrong and they guess right and it doesn't look so good. I like to think that I get us in the best play possible most of the time. "
He was then asked if he's "a thinking man's veteran quarterback" in a league that gets younger, throws harder, and runs faster each year.
"Hey, I can still run. Did you see that touchdown?" Roethlisberger asked of his 13-yard dash in Green Bay. "No one touched me. That being said, I still think the cerebral part is going to continue to grow. I always want to be a smart player. Hopefully I don't lose my physical skills as well."
Originally Posted by Slapstick
Some might look at Haley negatively from this article. I see just the opposite. He has been instrumental in advancing and maturing Roethlisberger's game. Forced him to be more 'cerebral' in his approach. Haley is exactly what Ben needed at this point in his career. How often did BA allow Ben to be in the no-huddle the entire game? They used to talk about it a lot, but it never seemed to happen.
Originally Posted by hawaiiansteel
Kudos to both for making it work.
Big Ben, Steelers offense enjoy success
December 25, 2013
Ray Fittipaldo / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The season started out in horrific fashion for Ben Roethlisberger. In the middle, there was some tabloid drama. But, in the end, the 2013 season might best be remembered as the most prolific for the Steelers' franchise quarterback.
Roethlisberger is rewriting many of his records in what is turning out to be one of the best, if not the best, statistical season of his 10-year NFL career.
Roethlisberger already has set the team record for most completions in a season. Sunday, with at least 247 yards passing against the Cleveland Browns, he will set a team record for most passing yards in a season. Roethlisberger has thrown for 4,082 yards in 15 games and is looking to break the record he set in 2009 when he threw for 4,328.
He also has an outside chance to break the team record for most touchdowns passes in a season. He has 27, third-most he has thrown in a season. He set the record with 32 in 2007.
Roethlisberger isn't the only Steelers player setting or approaching franchise records in what is shaping up to be an historic offensive season. Receiver Antonio Brown set the season record for most receiving yards in a season last week when he passed Yancey Thigpen, who held the mark with 1,398 yards in 1997.
Brown has 1,412 receiving yards and needs 12 receptions against the Browns to break the season record for most in a season held by Hines Ward with 112.
Rookie running back Le'Veon Bell also has a chance to set the team record for most yards from scrimmage by a rookie.
"I think it's a lot of things," Roethlisberger said of the numbers the offense is putting up. "I think it's the hard work and effort we've put in. It comes down to the coach, the players and the play-calling. I just think guys have stepped it up and guys have jelled together."
Most of the offense's success has come in the second half of the season after offensive coordinator Todd Haley allowed Roethlisberger to use the no-huddle offense on a consistent basis. The team is averaging almost 30 points per game over the past eight games, and Roethlisberger and his teammates are posting some gaudy statistics.
"Our numbers in the second half of the season when we've been in the no-huddle and doing some of the things we're doing now, I feel like our numbers are getting better," Roethlisberger said. "If you look at numbers alone, I'd say it's pretty good.
"I think it's more than just me. I have to give credit to the coaches and the other quarterbacks because so much is done on the sideline. We're talking about so many things. The players are talking to me about the plays they like whether it's Heath [Miller] or Jerricho [Cotchery]. It's more than just me. It's all of us and being able to use the things they give me on the field makes us all better."
The no-huddle offense also has protected Roethlisberger. He has been sacked just 10 times in the past seven games after getting sacked 31 times in the first eight.
"When I'm calling the plays, I can call it off what the defenses are giving us," Roethlisberger said. "It's kind of that chess match. When Coach Haley calls a play, he doesn't know what the defense is going to give us. When I'm out there, I can see what the defense is giving us and I can call a play that I think can work against that specific defense. I've predetermined where I'm going to go with the ball because I can see the defense."
Roethlisberger and former offensive coordinator Bruce Arians were known to have a good relationship and trust in one another, but Roethlisberger said this is the most input he has had on an offense in his 10 years in the league. Roethlisberger also worked with Ken Whisenhunt when he was offensive coordinator in Roethlisberger's early seasons.
"All of the coordinators have been open to input, but this is probably the most they've accepted it, and we've used it and tweaked it and done things to benefit the team," he said.
Roethlisberger, who will turn 32 in March, is showing no signs of slowing down. Sunday will mark the second time in his career he has started every game in a season. He credited his offensive line for keeping him upright and said he feels better physically than he has in recent seasons.
"The goal is to always get better," he said. "I want to keep getting better physically and mentally. I still feel like my best football is ahead of me."
Ben Roethlisberger's 2013 numbers going into the Steelers' final game of the season Sunday and where it puts him on the franchise all-time single season charts:
Yards passing: 4,082 (2nd)
* Needs 246 to break his own record
Passing attempts: 553 (1st)
* Set record Dec. 15 vs. Cincinnati
Completions: 356 (1st)
* Set record Dec. 15 vs. Cincinnati
Touchdown passes: 27 (3rd)
* Needs five to tie his own record
Completion percentage: 64.4 (4th)
* 2.2 points off his own record
Good piece. I assumed he would get his s--t together after he had a kid. We might have 5 more years of an elite level QB; we need to appreciate the time we have left and hopefully win at least one more ring.
No-huddle takes offense to another level
December, 26, 2013
By Scott Brown | ESPN.com
Going without a huddle has helped Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers' offense.
PITTSBURGH – Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ playoff chances: “We’ve already worked a little magic last week and [all of the games] fell for us. I’ve seen stranger things happen.”
Offensive coordinator Todd Haley on if one of four things doesn’t happen Sunday and the Steelers miss the playoffs by a game: “It’s easy to look back but we can’t do that.”
The shame if the Steelers miss the playoffs is that they would probably be a tough out because of how their offense has come together since Haley went all in on the no-huddle offense.
The Steelers are averaging 29.3 points in their last eight games, and Haley can only wonder what might have been had Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey not sustained a torn ACL on Pittsburgh’s first possession of the season.
“We had big plans for the no-huddle coming into the season,” Haley said.
Fernando Velasco, by all accounts, learned the offense faster than could have expected. But it took time for him to get comfortable with everything before Haley felt confident in unleashing the no-huddle attack. And he had to pull the reins back a little bit after Velasco tore his Achilles and Cody Wallace became the third starting center of the season.
But the no-huddle, and how it has transformed the Steelers' offense, is the biggest story of the second half of the season. Ben Roethlisberger has never played better and taken less hits while running the offense in which he calls the plays.
Roethlisberger’s command of the no-huddle isn’t the only reason why the Steelers’ offense could really take off next season. Youth abounds on offense and, as Haley observed, “especially up front. A lot of guys have a lot of playing time. Not only that, they’ve shown they can play in the league. We have a lot of bodies on hand and, as everybody gets healthy [that] should bode well for what we are trying to do.”
It seems a foregone conclusion that Haley will return next season, and as much as his relationship with Roethlisberger has been scrutinized, consider what the veteran quarterback said earlier this week.
“I think all of the coordinators have been open to input, but I think this is probably the most that they've accepted [from him]. We’ve used it and tweaked it to benefit the team,” he said.
It has also benefited Roethlisberger. He has been sacked just six times in the last six games after getting dropped 35 times in the first nine games.
Roethlisberger praised his line for keeping him clean but also acknowledged that the no-huddle is conducive to keeping him upright.
“When I’m calling plays I can call it based off what the defense is giving us,” Roethlisberger said. ”The ball will come out quicker because I’ve kind of predetermined where I’m going with the ball.”
The Steelers would love nothing more than to sneak into the playoffs and see how far Roethlisberger and the offense takes them.
If they fall short, the one consolation they have is the offense could be even better next season.