'Texas' style suits Ben

PITTSBURGH – Someone once asked Ted Marchibroda whether Jim Kelly's play-calling was the key to the breakneck "K-Gun" offense together in Buffalo. "No," Marchibroda said. "He wanted to do it. That was a big plus for us. Jim loved to be the head. He loved it. He really did."

Ken Whisenhunt is saying much of the same about his quarterback after Ben Roethlisberger headed the Pittsburgh Steelers' "Texas" offense Saturday night against the Minnesota Vikings.

The Steelers opened the preseason game with a reverse to Nate Washington that gained 20 yards, and then ran four consecutive plays without huddling. They reached the Minnesota 16 before the Vikings' call for replay stopped the momentum.

On the next play, Roethlisberger threw a touchdown pass to Cedrick Wilson and that was it for Roethlisberger. He was three for four on the drive for 29 yards and the touchdown, and he left the stadium excited with the new element.

"I think it could be a major weapon for us," he said.

The Bills called their offense the "K-Gun." The Steelers call theirs "Texas," presumably after Texan Tommy Maddox, who operated the offense as recently as last year's Jacksonville game.

"We worked on it with Ben last year," said Whisenhunt. "We worked on it in training camp this year and Ben has expressed interest in wanting to do some of that, and that's the key. When he wants ownership in that, then that's when you can take that step and start doing some of those things."

Coach Bill Cowher noted Roethlisberger's "great command" and "good presence" during the drive. Running back Willie Parker did, too.

"One time the receivers were in the wrong spot and he directed them to the right side of the field and then he turned around and let me know everything," Parker said. "He made sure everybody was on the same page."

"Ben has progressed," said Whisenhunt. "The work he did in the spring was fantastic as far as understanding what we're trying to get done, and even anticipating things. It's nice to see him do that in a game. This is the first time he's done it for us. He's done the two-minute drill, but not the no-huddle drill. It was something we wanted to look at, give him some opportunities, and he did a very good job with it."

Whisenhunt likes what the "Texas" attack allows his quarterback to do. Without using a huddle, the offense forces the defense to keep its personnel group on the field, but there's more.

"You make them line up because you give the threat of running a play, and that gives you an idea of what the defense is and you can call a play based on that," Whisenhunt said.

The keys are Roethlisberger's command of the playbook, his ability to communicate the proper read to the rest of the offense, and his desire to be the head. It's what put Kelly in the Hall of Fame.

"That was a whole different thing," Whisenhunt said of those Bills' offenses. "That's all they did. We're not going to lose touch with the other things we do like running the football and our play-action game. This is just one aspect of it that gives Ben another element."

After two preseason games, Roethlisberger has completed six of eight for 59 yards and a touchdown. His passer rating is 134.9. In last year's first two preseason games his rating was 36.5.

"With the training camp he's had, and I've seen him go out in the games, I think he's fine," said Cowher. "I haven't seen any rust. He is playing with a lot of confidence right now. I want to give him enough to get a taste of it. That's all I need to see."


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