Small Stuff Comes Up Big

The offense didn't swing for the fences, but the sharp singles to center worked for the Steelers.

Ben Roethlisberger completed 73.3 percent of his passes, came up 2 yards shy of a 300-yard game and finished with a passer rating of 115.7.

And yet he was far from perfect.

"We left 80 yards out there," offensive coordinator Bruce Arians assessed.

The Steelers also came away with a combined three points to show for a first-and-goal at the Seattle 1-yard line in the first quarter and a first-and-goal at the Seahawks' 2 in the second.

But the significant development emerging from Steelers 24, Seahawks 0 is the patience with which Roethlisberger played.

With Seattle safeties Kim Chancellor and Earl Thomas apparently dedicated to playing a deep Cover 2 Roethlisberger took what was there rather than force the ball down the field. And with two spots on the offensive line featuring players who hadn't been there the week before against Baltimore, including rookie Markus Gilbert at right tackle, Roethlisberger looked for shorter, chains-moving gains and consistently got rid of the ball quickly.

How did that translate?

The Steelers' first snap turned out to be a dump-down to Rashard Mendenhall.

It was supposed to be a home run.

"First play of the game we were going deep," Arians said. "It wasn't there; (Roethlisberger) took the check-down."

It was a sign of things to come.

"Just taking what they gave us," Roethlisberger said. "I think I hit more check-downs today than I have in a long time. It just proves that our guys can get it done even when you get them the ball short; you don't have to go deep every time."

That's a battle Roethlisberger has often fought with the competitive side of his nature, the one that tells him almost instinctively that a big play must be made on every play.

It's a big part of what makes him special, that ability to extend plays and take hits in search of the big one. But when he can reel that in every once in a while he doesn't end up playing catch with Ed Reed. And when he dumps down there's much less of a chance the play will result in a sack/strip/fumble recovery for the defense.

Roethlisberger took fewer chances against Seattle and played the percentages much more often. And his numbers were still there at the end of the day, as they were for wide receiver Mike Wallace (eight catches, 126 yards and a touchdown).

The idea isn't to turn Big Ben into Check-down Charlie. But a little moderation while in search of those big plays can go a long way.

"The big thing is still getting chunks," of yards, Arians maintained. "Boy, we missed some chunks, the cross to Heath (Miller), the cross to Hines (Ward). The crossing route to Heath on the bootleg, he might still be running."

Had Roethlisberger been a little more accurate the numbers would have really piled up.

As it was the Steelers netted 421 yards with the quarterback playing it safe and smart and still making plays through improvisation when so inclined.

Roethlisberger going to the no-huddle without prompting from the sideline was an example of the latter.

"B.A. was calling the next play and I was waving everyone off," Roethlisberger said. "We went to it and it didn't seem like anyone blinked."

So was the touchdown to Wallace, a perfectly placed fade on what was supposed to be a running play.

"I called a run, but if we get a certain look (Roethlisberger) has the liberty to do that," Arians said. "It's basically an audible without audibling."

"It's a pass option if Ben likes the look, and if he likes it you know I like it," Wallace said. "I knew it, he knows it. We look in each other's eyes and we have that bond, that quarterback-receiver bond that we're supposed to have."

What'll they think of next?


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