New coordinator Bruce Arians is not keeping it a secret that he will make the long pass a staple of the offense
Saturday, August 18, 2007
Charlie Batch has appeared for 24 snaps in two games, a number he might not exceed when the Steelers (1-1) play the Washington Redskins (1-0) at 8 p.m. in a preseason game at FedEx Field in Landover, Md.
But, when they have played, Roethlisberger and Batch -- even No. 3 Brian St. Pierre -- have not wasted any time demonstrating what the offense might look like this season under new offensive coordinator Bruce Arians.
It isn't that the Steelers are throwing the ball more. In fact, they have run the ball more times (65) than they have thrown (55) in two preseason games. But, when they throw the ball, they haven't been shy about throwing deep, deep, deep.
"It makes us eager to know we're finally using the weapons we have on the outside," Roethlisberger said.
In two games, the Steelers have produced four passing plays of 41 yards or longer and another of 26 yards. That does not include passes of 33 yards to running back Carey Davis and 24 yards to running back Gary Russell -- short passes that resulted in long gains.
And it does not include several other deep passes that were attempted and not completed, including a diving attempt by Nate Washington against the Green Bay Packers.
"We have a lot of guys who can make plays," said Roethlisberger, who has completed 4 of 5 passes for 87 yards in two games. "I threw one to Ced [Wilson], Santonio [Holmes] got one last week, and we all know Hines [Ward] can do it, and Nate. It's exciting to see those guys in action."
It's no accident.
Arians not only likes to throw the ball, but he also likes to throw it deep. And he believes he has the players to do it, beginning with his quarterback and a stable of receivers that also could include Willie Reid, a third-round pick in 2006 who missed most of last season with a foot injury.
It is also the reason Arians likes to use three tight ends on occasion -- to open the seams and create deep throws down the middle.
"We have to go downtown at least five times a game, whether it's play action or long passes," Arians said. "We have too much speed not to take our shots downfield. You have to get big chunks of yardage in this league to score points."
Arians has tried to set the tone in the preseason, and it will likely continue tonight against the Redskins when Roethlisberger and the rest of the first-team offense will get more playing time.
Roethlisberger is expected to play approximately 20 plays against the Redskins. Batch will replace him and could play into the third quarter, depending on the amount of plays he receives.
But each has used their playing time to throw deep passes, particularly Batch, who threw a 49-yard pass to Holmes and a 41-yard touchdown to Walter Young in the loss to the Packers.
"We've been calling them," Batch said. "We've been practicing it a lot. By us showing we're able to do that, hopefully, it will soften up defenses and create more room for Willie Parker."
It remains to be seen if the Steelers will carry this big-play approach into the regular season, when play-calling tends to be more conservative. But, for now, Arians has not been hesitant to let his quarterbacks throw the ball down the field -- a trend he established on the second play of the first preseason game when Roethlisberger threw a 55-yard pass to Wilson to set up a touchdown.
"We used them to block so much in the past," Roethlisberger said of his receivers. "Hines is the best blocking receiver in the game, but people forget he's one of the best receiving wide receivers in the game. We're using him, and we're using them, wisely."
This year, Roethlisberger does not have to go far to get the plays from his coordinator. Arians is on the sideline and does not need a middle man to relay the plays. Last season, offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt sat in the press box and gave the plays to quarterbacks coach Mark Whipple, who relayed them to Roethlisberger.
"It's great," Roethlisberger said. "Last year, we played the phone game -- Whiz tells the play to coach Whipple and coach Whipple tells me. About the time I get the play there's about 15 seconds left on the play clock. Having Bruce on the sidelines to talk straight to me is great because we have more time on the play clock to make changes and make adjustments and make audibles."