Transcript: Whipple on Roethlisberger

<b> PITTSBURGH --</b> Mark Whipple replaces Tom Clements as the Steelers' quarterbacks coach this year and he couldn't have stepped into a better situation. On a team with savvy veterans in place, Whipple can spend most of his time working with Ben Roethlisberger, the No. 1 draft pick.

Whipple, 46, was the head coach at the University of Massachusetts the last six years (49-26) and won a national Division I-AA title in 1998. He sat down for an interview with us Monday, the start of the last week of spring workouts.


How's it going for you here?
It's going great. I'm working with a bunch of great people in a tremendous organization. Everybody believes in one another and it's great.

What's the most important aspect of your job right now?
I think communication and instilling confidence and making sure our quarterbacks are prepared when they step on the field. I've got great four great guys, great people, with Tommy, Charlie, Brian and Ben. They're helping one another out and everything else. It's been tremendous.

How do you handle the dynamic in which the veterans probably know the system better than you?
Well, you know, they want to win; they're mature. What it allows me to do is probably spend a little more time with Ben. Brian was a great help in the off-season. I was able to talk to him about the difficulties coming from college. What he went through kind of helped me with some of the preparation for Ben.

What is the No. 1 difficulty?
I think it's just terminology. He's learning a whole new offense and there's so much stuff, with motions and shifts and different concepts in the pass game, a whole new cadence. It's just verbalizing those things and getting confident instead of thinking about it all the time. You want to say it and picture in your mind what you're doing.

So how difficult has it been for Ben?
Oh, I think he's done a great job. I've been really impressed. Everybody's been impressed with how far he's come. He's got such natural ability at being able to see things. He's just going to get better and better as it goes. We're in the process right now of finally kind of going back over some things. We started with a lot of offense and now you get a chance to see it a second time, a third time, so it's just getting better and better. He's been super.

Do you think about a timetable at all for a guy like that?
No. I don't think we're in that kind of situation. I mean, he's not ready to go now. I'm just going to get him ready. You've got two veterans who've started a lot of games in the NFL and he's learned a lot from them, and seeing things, and obviously when you're playing against our defense they're giving us so many different looks. You saw today today there are corners, safeties, there are people coming. There's more than what you see on paper.

He really throws well on the run doesn't he?
He's a great athlete. He's not just a big, strong guy, he can make plays with his feet and make plays with his mind. We all know he's got a great arm and great savvy, but we've all been impressed with his ability.

Is he almost better when he rolls out?
Ah, better? We just kind of make plays. I think he's a playmaker and he's a winner. Those are the things you look for. Everybody who's known him has said the same thing. The kid's a winner.

Have you seen any mechanics you'd like to change on Ben?
No. Not right now. I just want him to learn the offense and get comfortable. He can throw the ball, make all the throws. We saw that when he worked out. And he'll just get better with some of the things. We haven't gotten to the point of reading a lot of defenses. It's more about learning our stuff. The next stage, now this last week, is he's really gotten better seeing some sites, seeing some hots, seeing some things that way. Mechanically, he can throw it. He can make every throw. We saw that. If he couldn't have made the throws we wouldn't have drafted him in the first round. He can make all the throws and make all the plays.

I ask because you're both coming in together. Wouldn't it be an ideal time to mold your clay?
No. If we had to mold the clay we wouldn't have drafted him in the first round. We're more about accountability and production, and the guy's productive. I'm not into 'Hey, change your finger, put your elbow up here that way.' It's more about moving the feet, being confident, becoming somebody you can rely on. I can tell Whis, 'Hey, he really feels comfortable with this route; not comfortable with this route; we need to work on these things.' That's what we're looking at now.

Wouldn't a genius want to imprint his style in the NFL?
I don't care about that. You know what? When you get a Super Bowl trophy that's when you get genius. It's not about how many yards you throw for, none of that. It's about winning games. Quarterback is more than throwing, it's about managing the football game and getting the ball in the end zone. You have to have a guy who believes and I think he has all those - I think all four of those guys have those attributes.

It's an exciting time for you isn't it?
Yeah. It's great. We have a beautiful day, great facilities. I don't have to worry about grades, ineligibility. We're ready to go. I know they'll be here tomorrow morning.

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