Ben sees similarities to 2004
By Mike Prisuta
There was a mix of young and old who came together in 2004 and spurred a run of winning
LATROBE, Pa. – Ben Roethlisberger has seen such a roster mix click previously for the Steelers once before. He’s looking at it from the other end of the spectrum at present, but it’s no less familiar and no less potentially effective.
“We have a good group of young guys,” the Steelers’ quarterback assessed this week at Saint Vincent College. “We have a really good second-year class that needs to step up – Jarvis Jones, Markus Wheaton, Le’Veon Bell, those guys, and I’m excited about where they’re going because they’ve put the work in and they know they need to step up and help this team.
“Troy and I spent some time talking the other day. We just kind of reminisced about how when we came into the league the team was older than us. We had the older guys, and we were just good enough as a young group to help the older group have a real good run there of AFC Championship games and Super Bowls and kind of do some good stuff.
“We kind of looked at each other and were kind of laughing and talking, it’s kind of what it feels like now. We have those older guys. And as older guys we feel we have a good younger group, whether it’s rookies, second-year guys, third-year guys, even some guys – Maurkice Pouncey’s been here for a little bit but is still a younger guy – who hopefully can get us back over that hump of becoming a championship team again.”
Roethlisberger took the Steelers to the AFC Championship Game as a rookie in 2004 and to Super Bowl XL the following season. If he’s destined to orchestrate a resurrection of such successes in 2014, it would admittedly be as a much different quarterback.
“The longer you play, the more defenses you’ve seen, the more players, the more blitzes, the more pass combinations, routes and things like that,” he said. “Early in my career it was my first read, maybe a second read, and then you’re out of there, I’m running, scrambling, trying to make something happen.
“Now it’s first read, second read, third read, maybe even a fourth read, then get out. I think most quarterbacks evolve into that.”
Roethlisberger’s evolution has resulted in him extending plays in search of big plays less frequently in favor of identifying and dissecting what a defense is making available, and then utilizing all of the weapons at his disposal.
It’s a shift in approach he’s come to embrace entering his 11th NFL season.
“We still need to have those big plays, deep down the field, because those are quote-unquote splash plays and they do a lot for you,” Roethlisberger. “But I think with the line protecting we can spread the ball around. I think there will be a lot of people getting touches this year. That should translate into me getting the ball out (quickly) because there are guys running intermediate routes and just (because of) a better understanding of the offense.
“Some of that has to do with just the growth and understanding of the quarterback position, understanding of the offense and having faith that the guy is going to be where he’s supposed to be.”
The more the Steelers turn to the no-huddle offense, as they did last season and as they’re working to do this season when the mood strikes them, the more obvious the mutual trust shared between third-year offensive coordinator Todd Haley and Roethlisberger becomes.
“There has to be,” trust, Roethlisberger said. “(Haley), ‘Coach Munch’ (offensive line coach Mike Munchak), Randy (quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner), they have to trust that when we are in the no-huddle and I’m calling the plays that I’m not just going to go deep every single play or throw it every play. To try to get us in the best play possible, run, pass, screen, wide receiver screen, tight end screen, whatever it is, that’s why we put so much work into this.
“And that’s why I’ve said this is our offense. This isn’t my offense. This isn’t Coach Haley’s offense. It’s ours as a collective group.”