Fresh Approach Pays Off

The Steelers' offense had to do what was necessary, and it paid off big for Ben Roethlisberger.

Pittsburgh – Chicks may dig the long ball, but it wasn't exactly working out as a bread-and-butter play for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Though wide receiver Mike Wallace was off to a strong start, with 25 catches for 454 yards and two touchdowns in the first four games, the Steelers hadn't scored more than 24 points.

And the high-risk, high-reward style of offense was getting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger killed along the way.

Sunday, in a 38-17 win over the Tennessee Titans, the Steelers took a different approach.

Eight different players caught passes.

The running game produced 174 yards.

Roethlisberger was an efficient 24 of 34 for 228 yards and five touchdowns, getting sacked just one time.

With Roethlisberger playing through a sprained left foot and starting running back Rashard Mendenhall sidelined with a hamstring injury, the Steelers changed up their offensive focus.

In short, they became more patient.

"(The Titans) played a lot of cover-2 and when they play cover-2, you should be able to run the ball effectively," said wide receiver Hines Ward, who led the Steelers with seven receptions for 54 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

"At the same time, it should open up things in the underneath coverage. That's where the ball is supposed to go. That's what we have to do. We have to be balanced like that. If teams are going to play cover-2 and take away the deep ball, we have to be patient and keep dinking and dunking and control the ball. We did a good job of that."

Roethlisberger admitted that he adjusted his game to not look for the deep pass all the time, instead taking what the Titans gave him.

"I tried to approach this game … mainly not to go for the homerun every play," Roethlisberger said. "Sometimes we don't have a choice, the play is called for everyone to go deep and we aren't left with any underneath stuff. Today, I just tried getting some of the underneath stuff and taking what the defense gave us. I tried not to hold onto it and make too big of plays. I think it worked well."

It was a big step for Roethlisberger and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians.

While the Steelers have plenty of talent at the skill positions, they aren't as blessed on the offensive line – though the addition of Max Starks at left tackle seemed to help.

With the speed of Wallace and Antonio Brown, it may be tempting to constantly look for passes 25-plus yards down the field. But those plays require time and Roethlisberger wasn't always getting it.

Perhaps Roethlisberger's injury forced the Steelers to adjust to something that will work much better.

And they were still able to take a shot deep, with Roethlisberger connecting with Wallace for a 40-yard TD in the fourth quarter once the Titans had been softened up.

"We're still growing offensively," said Ward. "It feels good to play a great team and be as efficient as we were and help the defense out. We're still searching for our identity and who we want to be, but it feels good to be able to run the ball the way we did and have everybody contribute in the passing game."

Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter


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