Roethlisberger's Game Expanding

Mike Prisuta liked what he saw from Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers last night. Here's Prisuta's notebook:

It was the type of play the old Ben Roethlisberger rarely would have even tried to make.

First-and-10 from the Steelers 19-yard line three plays into the Steelers' second possession in preseason game No. 2 against Philadelphia on Thursday night.

Roethlisberger, flushed from the pocket and looking downfield for yet another home run, instead pulled up and dumped the ball off to Rashard Mendenhall, who had been blocking and at the time appeared to be looking for something else to do.

Mendenhall turned the improvisation into a 12-yard gain.

Those add up, as Roethlisberger now seems to understand.

He doesn't have to risk a sack or a holding penalty or a sack/fumble every time he drops back to pass. Every play doesn't have to be a big play. He doesn't always have to absorb a hit in search of the big one.

Apparently, Roethlisberger has come to appreciate as much, and is now able to channel that mile-wide competitive streak to better suit it to his purposes, and the Steelers'.

And if in the process the Steelers come up with a way to get the ball to Mendenhall in the flat every now and then, so much the better. That's still an aspect of Mendenhall's game the Steelers haven't adequately tapped.

* It took the Steelers 12 snaps to get to a five-wides empty set. You're going to see more of this type of thing sooner rather than later this season. They'll have that capability at the outset, assuming both Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown dress for games. And they'll take advantage of that capability often enough to make many a little uncomfortable.

And they'll hemorrhage some sacks because of it.

And it'll work much more often than not, as it did vs. Philly to the tune of an 18-yard completion to Arnaz Battle.

* Cornerback Donovan Warren was the first defensive back off the bench. Granted, there were four cornerbacks out of the lineup and two more in uniform who had been with the Steelers for a matter of hours. But Warren, a first-year pro, has nonetheless established himself as a reliable guy who doesn't make the same mistake twice after he's been corrected.

Just sayin' … Warren isn't out of the picture just yet.

* Those reverse-passes thrown by Brown don't work in practice, either.

* Roethlisberger still hasn't worked with Jerricho Cotchery, but the No. 1 QB no doubt got an eyeful of what the free-agent receiver might add when Cotchery entered in the second quarter.

A completion from Byron Leftwich to Cotchery was wiped out by a holding penalty, but the two responded by hooking up again and converting a third-and-24 from the Steelers 16 on the subsequent snap. Later still, the two hooked up for a touchdown.

I'm starting to understand why the players and coaches are so jazzed about adding Cotchery to a position that already appeared to be so well-stocked.

* Didn't expect to see any burst from Troy Polamalu until Sept. 11 in Baltimore. But Polamalu came from out of the frame to defend a pass along the line of scrimmage intended for Philly tight end Brent Celek.

And that 36-yard interception return, complete with an ill-advised thought about a lateral to LaMarr Woodley, was vintage Polamalu.

Feel better now?

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