Ben Roethlisberger's touchdown passes are up and his interceptions down. Somewhere, Ken Anderson has a hand in it.
The man Bengals owner Mike Brown this week called the most important player in that franchise's history, will return to Cincinnati for the first time as an enemy -- the quarterbacks coach of the Steelers.
"I think everybody's making a bigger deal of it than it is to me," Anderson said yesterday after practice. "It's not like I'm at the end of my playing career and going back to the team that you played for all those years."
Anderson, 58, played 16 seasons for the Bengals and coached for them another 10. He passed for 32,838 yards and 197 touchdowns in his career and ran for another 2,220 yards and 20 touchdowns. Twice he was among the 15 finalists for election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
He holds the NFL record for highest completion percentage in a season -- 70.55 in 1982.
It might come as no surprise then that Roethlisberger has completed 63.3 percent of his passes this season, which would be the highest of his career. He's also well on his way to throwing more touchdowns than ever; his 13 are just five fewer than his previous high. And his five interceptions are far off the pace of his 23 that led the NFL last season.
Roethlisberger at first looked at Anderson warily because he had grown close to the only quarterback coach he'd known here, Mark Whipple, who was not retained by Mike Tomlin.
"My old quarterback coach, Mark Whipple, and I were very close and still are very close, so it was really tough when he left," Roethlisberger said. "We still stay in contact, get to play golf sometime. So it was really tough when he left, but I think Ken's done a great job of stepping in and being a good quarterback coach for me."
Roethlisberger said Anderson has not tinkered with his mechanics but has helped him improve the mental part of his game.
"He's helped tremendously. He's more of an after-the-game kind of guy. [Tuesday] and Monday, we'll sit down and we'll go over what I did right and what I did wrong. That's where he's made the biggest difference to me.
"Anybody that played as long as he did and played as well as he did, it helps because it gives him credibility," Roethlisberger said. "When he tells you something, you listen to it."
Dick LeBeau was an assistant with the Bengals at times when Anderson played for them.
"I could always tell when Kenny was in there because when the guy would take one step the ball would be on target and right there," LeBeau said.
Steelers secondary coach Ray Horton played cornerback for the Bengals during Anderson's last four seasons there and sees how he has helped Roethlisberger.
"I thought he'd be real good for Ben, coming in as a league MVP, a Super Bowl player, holding the record for the highest percentage," Horton said. "Ben can kind of lean on him as a been-there-done-that kind of guy. If he says something, 'I can trust he knows what he's talking about.' "
Anderson played in Cincinnati from 1971-86. He served as the Bengals' quarterbacks coach and then offensive coordinator from 1993-2002. He was an assistant in Jacksonville the past four seasons before Tomlin hired him to serve under new offensive coordinator Bruce Arians.
"I think the offensive guys will tell you he's been a big help to Bruce as far as someone to lean on," Horton said.
Anderson downplays his role in Roethlisberger's improvement this season.
"The credit has to go to him and how hard he's worked at it. He's taking care of the football, he's making good decisions with it. I think that's something for Ben that was brought up a lot last year and that's something you always focus on, is taking care of the football, and he's done a pretty good job of that."
Anderson also credits Roethlisberger for his ability to scramble and throw on the run, something Anderson also excelled at.
"He has great escape ability. He's a big guy, he's tough to bring down and he has good instincts as far as leaving the pocket. And he has good vision of the field, he knows where people are. For the most part this year, when he's been moving he's made plays for us and made good decisions with the football."
It's a trait Anderson had as a player as well, no small coincidence.