Ben Roethlisberger carved up the Browns for 417 yards through the air and two touchdowns in a 27-14 Steelers win at Heinz Field.
It was the second 400-yard passing day of Roethlisberger's career, and the natural question is this: Why did the Steelers throw so much against the Browns' soft run stoppers?
"We came out with the intention of running the ball," said Roethlisberger. "When I got to the no-huddle, I said, ‘Let's just get in the shotgun and start slinging it around.' It worked for us."
Roethlisberger completed 23 of 35 passes and was intercepted once. He threw touchdown passes of 8 yards to Heath Miller and 52 yards to Hines Ward in the second quarter after turning to the no-huddle, in which Roethlisberger calls the plays.
Roethlisberger nearly had a third touchdown pass in the quarter, a 13-yarder to Ward that was reviewed and disallowed after Ward rolled out of bounds and then dropped the ball.
Ward finished with 8 catches for 159 yards, the third-highest yardage total of his career and the most since he had a personal-best 171 at Atlanta in 2006.
Santonio Holmes also crossed the century mark with 104 yards on 5 catches, giving the Steelers a 400-yard passer and two 100-yard receivers in the same game for the second time in team history. The other time, the Steelers tied the Atlanta Falcons in 2002.
Roethlisberger notched his first winning 400-yard performance, having lost to Denver in 2006 when he threw for 433 yards, but the quarterback wasn't satisfied on Sunday. He called it "a subpar performance by our offense."
If that was subpar, what's the ceiling?
"I don't know," Roethlisberger said. "I don't know if we even know what it is. We've just got to keep reaching for it."
Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians' game plan had nothing to do with picking on Cleveland's tight-pressing cornerbacks. He stood by his and Coach Mike Tomlin's earlier positive assessment of Brandon McDonald and Eric Wright, and instead thought Roethlisberger's success had more to do with the play of the Steelers' offensive line and the zone-blitzing of the Browns.
For example, Miller's touchdown catch was made over 265-pound DE/OLB David Bowens at the end of a nine-second play.
Miller had 5 catches for 80 yards and agreed with Arians' breakdown, but had a simpler explanation for the Steelers' prolific production in the passing game.
"This is the best I've ever seen (Roethlisberger) play," Miller said. "I've seen him play pretty darn good sometimes. I just think the more you do something, the more comfortable you are with it and Ben has full command of this offense. He's had full command for a few years now, but he just keeps getting better and better."
And the ceiling remains out of sight.
"The points didn't match the performance," said Arians. "When we put it all together, I think we can be pretty daggone good."