In Ben They Trust ... Period

Mike Prisuta hears it straight from the mouth of Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians: Leave Ben alone.

Ben Roethlisberger said he wasn't going to change his game, and technically he didn't.

We had seen what we saw against the Titans – checking it down and getting it out quick, especially from an empty-set formation against a blitz – when the Steelers had taken on the Seahawks and during the first quarter against the Colts.

But that said it was still reassuring to see Roethlisberger fall back upon the don't-get-sacked-and-don't-turn-it-over approach early on and then stick with it in what became a resounding, 38-17 victory over Tennessee.

It was equally reassuring to see Antonio Brown be where Roethlisberger needed him to be on a 17-yard slant against a blitz to the Titans' 8-yard line on what became the Steelers' first scoring drive.

If that occurs more often, perhaps Roethlisberger will gain more confidence in an approach that will keep him upright and keep the sack/strip/fumbles to a minimum.

But if the offense ends up evolving in that direction, it'll be because Roethlisberger wants it to and not because anyone has told him that's the way it has to be.

"I don't ever tell him that, never," offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said.

Arians' advice, in fact, was 180 degrees in the other direction.

"‘Play football the way you know how to play because no one in this league played it better than you for the first eight years of their career. Why would you change how you play this game?' That's what I told him on Monday," Arians said. "‘You're the best there is as young as you are. Why would you change how you play just because other people think you get sacked too much?'

"I don't buy into all that stuff. We had a game plan like normal and he played it like normal. We blocked a lot better and obviously ran the ball a lot better. Everybody was in tune today."

* The key to Daniel Sepulveda's fake-punt pass to Ryan Mundy?

Sepulveda got it out quick.

* Mundy's most spectacular play was the 33-yard hookup with Sepulveda to the Titians' 17, but his most significant contribution came as a member of the six-defensive backs package the Steelers featured on passing downs.

Out came Larry Foote and the nose tackle du jour and in came Keenan "Ivory" Lewis and Mundy.

That's three safeties and three corners.

Tennessee wound up 0-for-4 on third downs in the first half, when such things still mattered.

* Jonathan Dwyer covered 76 yards on his first carry of the season, but he covered many more than that covering kickoffs.

The injury situation (specifically not having Jason Worilds and Cortez Allen) trickled down to the special teams, making it an all-hands-on-deck deal there, as well. Dwyer, Weslye Saunders and Chris Carter were among those asked to ante up and kick in covering kicks.

There were even a couple of Bryant McFadden sightings in that capacity.

* Heath Miller in the red zone? What a concept.

* Why did the run defense work this time?

Many reasons, but you can't overstate Chris Hoke's play at nose as a contributing factor.

Tennessee's second snap of the second half was a classic example of how well Hoke played in place of Casey Hampton. On second-and-5 from the Titans' 24 Hoke worked his way left in lateral pursuit of the attempted stretch play, stepped over and through an attempted cut/chop block from the backside guard and then shot a gap and dropped Chris Johnson for a 1-yard loss.

As Hokie reminded us, it can be done.

* The Steelers improved to 16-1 when Hoke starts.

Two more Ws and Hokie will tie Elroy Face (18-1 for your 1959 Pirates).

* Johnson finished with 14 carries, 51 rushing yards and a 3.6 average per carry. He gained 21 on his first carry of the game and 9 on a meaningless last-play-of-the-first-half snap.

The rest of the time he was a non-factor, despite a 1-yard touchdown run.

But before we get too weepy about the run defense let's remember that Johnson's season had played out pretty much the same way prior to Sunday. He's been CJ2K in name only.

If the Titans had truly believed Johnson would come in and run all over the Steelers they wouldn't have tried to throw to No. 66 on first-and-goal from the Steelers' 4.

There are many backs yet to stop this season (Maurice Jones-Drew, Beanie Wells, BenJarvis Green-Ellis, Ray Rice, perhaps Cedric Benson, Peyton Hillis, Frank Gore) and at least a couple more of them will have to be snuffed before the Steelers' run defense can be declared fixed.

* If it's coming out quick you can win big with Jonathan Scott at right tackle and a fresh-off-the-street Max Starks at left tackle.

Seriously, it's on tape.


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