Friday, May 25, 2007
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Mario Lemieux might be Ben Roethlisberger's most famous ongoing golf partner these days, but no match may be more telling for the Steelers' quarterback than the one he had early this week with someone else.
Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians delivered a message to his quarterback that fit him to a tee while they were on the course.
"He said 'This is your offense; you tell me what you like and don't like,' " Roethlisberger related yesterday.
Not the bashful type, Roethlisberger spoke up. He wants to use the no-huddle offense more often. It was a big topic during training camp last year but never really materialized during the season. He believes it will in 2007.
"I like the way he wants to run the no-huddle," Roethlisberger said. "Last year, we talked and talked and talked about doing it and never did it. We did it in the preseason against coach [Mike] Tomlin and Minnesota -- we marched down the field and I was done for the rest of the game. It was great. And then we never saw it.
"I like that he wants to do that and I truly believe this year that we will do it."
They will do much more of it if Roethlisberger can run it the way he did in practice Wednesday.
"He just had one of the best practices I've ever seen him have, and it was the no-huddle package," Arians said then. "He ran it to perfection -- smooth, without a hitch, his completion percentage is way up right now.
"I'm real pleased. I couldn't ask for anything more. His snap count, he's doing a great job with it, we're not jumping offsides. Those little things can create big things and make you a better offense."
The Steelers' new offense won't look like Peyton Manning's, but a bigger dose of the no-huddle seems in order.
"I think we'll see it at least once a game," said Roethlisberger, who ran a steady diet of no-huddle at Miami University. "That was pretty much all we did was no-huddle. We called it Little Muddle where just the linemen huddled, and I signaled out to the receivers."
The Steelers will use the no-huddle in both the shotgun formation and with Roethlisberger under center.
"We have 60-some plays in that no-huddle package that I can call," Roethlisberger said. "That's another thing that we talked about; it's me calling the plays, but, if Bruce or someone sees something, they can tell me, 'Ben, we want to see this real quick in the no-huddle,' and I can call it from there. But I like that he has the confidence in me to do that."
Arians has taken the bridle off his fourth-year quarterback. Whereas the coaches protected Roethlisberger in his first few years, they are now allowing him to call audibles, call the pass protections and, as he hopes, run more no-huddle.
"I think the first year they tried to [protect me] a little more, but it didn't work as well because I was just kind of running around crazy," Roethlisberger said. "My second year I think they did a little bit, and it worked pretty well. I think they still tried to do it a lot last year as well, even though I thought I'd grown a lot. I think they did it mostly because of the injuries; I didn't think they needed to.
"This year, I think it's gotten to the point where B.A.'s putting a lot of trust in me and me in him."
Roethlisberger has eased into a leadership role over his first three years, but seems to be embracing it now. He has done little things, like taking teammates' questions about a recent story to a reporter. His more famous leadership moment came, as described by Peter King in Sports Illustrated last week, when he had dinner with Mike Tomlin shortly after he was named Steelers coach.
Roethlisberger told his new coach that a lot of players were unhappy that Russ Grimm or Ken Whisenhunt did not get his job, and that he would have to earn the players' respect and trust.
"It wasn't like one of those things where I stood up and told Tomlin you need to earn our respect," Roethlisberger said. "It wasn't anything like that. It was just that we have a lot of guys and a lot of differences going on and we have to earn each others' respect, and I think that we've done that."
Roethlisberger admits there was some resentment toward him in the Steelers' locker room early in his career because of the big money he made as a No. 1 draft choice, but he sees a big change.
"I think there was at first, but I think guys have learned that it's OK, we've grown into that," he said.
"As in everything, I always want to get better and I'll want to get better at being a leader -- not taking over, just being a presence in there for guys. I want guys to know that if they're in any kind of problem, if they need to come talk to someone, if they need a place to stay, a car, anything I can help them with I will be more than happy and willing to do that. I just want them to always know that and I think guys are starting to understand that more, especially the younger guys as they come up."
As for the even bigger money he stands to make on his next contract, something agent Ryan Tollner has broached with the Steelers, Roethlisberger wants no huddle on that one.
"I have enough to think about right now. Job security is always important, but there's a lot going on right now with other guys and so I'm not going to sit here and gripe and complain. I'm just going to let things happen that happen."