Running with Roethlisberger

<b>PITTSBURGH - </b> Judging by his 91.3 quarterback rating and 3-0 record as the starting quarterback, Steelers rookie Ben Roethlisberger seems to have a pretty good handle on how to play in the NFL.

But his offensive coordinator begs to differ.

Not that Ken Whisenhunt hasn't been pleased by how Roethlisberger has played. But he knows the rookie can be even better - a prospect that has to concern opposing teams.

"Sometimes when he comes out from under center, he turns the wrong way and his footwork is off," said Whisenhunt. "But you want to be careful with what you do with him, because you don't want him thinking about that other stuff. You just want him playing."

Roethlisberger is coming off his best performance so far in Sunday's 34-23 victory over Cleveland. He completed 16 of 21 passes for 231 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He also scrambled for a score.

In four games, Roethlisberger has completed nearly 65 percent of his passes for 744 yards and five touchdowns. He's been sacked only four times - the same number Tommy Maddox was sacked before being injured in the third quarter of the season's second game.

Roethlisberger's ability to avoid a rush and scramble is something opponents must account for on every play. The Steelers have some plays for when Roethlisberger ventures out of the pocket, something Maddox has rarely done.

"It's something you really can't practice on the practice field," said wide receiver Hines Ward. "We always have one guy going deep, one guy coming short and one guy coming back to the quarterback."

And Roethlisberger has made it work.

"Sometimes, you see somebody down the field and it's a close call," Roethlisberger said. "You have to second-guess yourself and be smart. Let's not force anything and let's not be stupid. A lot of times, you don't even have time to think, you just play football."

That's the fine line Whisenhunt is trying to walk with Roethlisberger. He doesn't want to hinder his quarterback's natural playmaking ability, but he also knows opponents will try to keep him in the pocket.

"He has a lot of confidence in himself that when things break down, he can scramble out and make a play. And you don't want to mess with that," said Whisenhunt. "But you also want to tell him, 'Look, in this situation, you want to look for this receiver and stay in the pocket.' You can't make a living making plays while outside the pocket. That will only last so long. Right now, he's making plays doing it. He's making some good throws in the pocket and he's making some good throws outside of the pocket."

And Roethlisberger has established himself as a leader. "As quarterback, you have to be (a leader) no matter what," Roethlisberger said. "I am out there trying to lead by example, trying to do the things I can and just trying to win football games. That is all that matters to me right now."

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