1-2-3 Gone!

Ben Roethlisberger not only had the lowest interception percentage of his career, but the lowest sack percentage since 2005, thanks to a conscious effort to get rid of the ball more quickly.

PITTSBURGH – Against Carolina two weeks ago, Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace took a short pass to beat a blitz and he did more than that.

Wallace sprinted past his cover man, through two converging defensive backs, and into the end zone for a 43-yard touchdown.

Against Cleveland last Sunday, Wallace took a similar pass from Ben Roethlisberger on a quick slant at the Cleveland 47. This time, though, Wallace didn't run away from his cover man, nor did he beat the converging safeties. All three Browns gang-tackled Wallace at the Cleveland 12.

The lightning-quick Wallace did gain 41 yards, but he didn't score. And then he went to the sideline to put his shoe on.

"I lost the shoe as soon as I caught it," Wallace said after Tuesday's practice. "This is the first time anyone's asked me about it. I didn't think anyone knew."

"I knew," said his locker-room neighbor Keenan Lewis. "As soon as they started closing the gap I figured something was wrong and that's when I noticed he was running without his shoe."

Otherwise, Wallace would've been gone.

"I should've scored anyway," Wallace said. "If I'd have kept running right, or got another block, I would've scored. And that one would've been real sweet."

It was still sweet, particularly for Steelers fans who've been waiting to see more of these quick passes from Roethlisberger.

In the previous four regular seasons – or since 2006 when the coaching staff elevated Roethlisberger from mere "game manager" status – Roethlisberger had been sacked 189 times, or an average of 47 times per season.

His cumulative sack percentage those four seasons was 9.3.

This season, with only 32 sacks, Roethlisberger's percentage is 8.2. In the last five games it's dropped to 7.1 percent, and in the last three games it dipped to 5.8 percent.

Not only is his interception rate at a career low, so is his post-manager sacks percentage. And he's doing it with two rookies and a sophomore on his receiving corps.

"We're just getting into a rhythm," said Wallace, the sophomore. "He trusts that we're going to be where we're supposed to be. The more we hit, the more trust he has."

"You have to be a little more careful, but those guys are good," Roethlisberger said of his kiddie corps. "Those guys are doing a good job of running the routes and doing the right things, so it makes it easier for me."

Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians has never trusted his quarterbacks to throw off three-step drops because of the risk for defensive touchdowns. But clearly, Arians is allowing Roethlisberger to have at it these days.

Roethlisberger explained that it has more to due with the importance of the games recently. He explained it this way:

"When we get down to the goal line or inside the 10, we always have the option of running the quarterback draw," he said. "That's always an option. Early in the year, coach is like, ‘I don't want you running because I don't want you to take a chance on getting hurt.' Now, it's like, ‘I don't care if you get hurt because we're trying to win the game.'

"So, it's kind of the same approach. Once you get later in the year, if you have that quick throw to Mike or that quick throw to Emmanuel [Sanders], take it, because you can't afford to hold anything back. You can't say, ‘Well, next week we'll take advantage of it,' because you don't know if there'll be a next week."

Or, if the receiver will have his shoes on.


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