Big Ben thinking bigger than ever

Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger sat down with Mike Prisuta to talk about an offense that can include three 100-catch receivers.

The stated goal from Ben Roethlisberger late last season was for the Steelers' offense to become a unit to be feared, one that should expect to score every time it gets its hands on the football.

The goal this season for Roethlisberger, expressed upon his arrival in Latrobe, is to "be the best," to "win a championship this year."

Last year's offense featured a 1,000-yard rusher (Rashard Mendenhall), two 1,000-yard receivers (Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward) and a 4,000-yard passer (Roethlisberger).

This season the mandate from Art Rooney II is to run the ball "better."

But that said Roethlisberger still believes the 2010 Steelers' offense can feature three pass-catchers (Ward, Mike Wallace and Heath Miller) with 100 receptions each.

Here's why:

Q: How are you planning to improve individually this season in pursuit of your goals for yourself, the offense and the team?

A: "I always say every year learn the offense, learn it better. Aaron Smith made a joke today, he said, ‘Ben, you know you've been here a long time when you're telling guys in the middle of a play what to do.' I started thinking about it and I said, ‘Yeah, I guess you're right.' Like dropping back to pass and a receiver runs the wrong route, ‘No, break out instead of in,' stuff like that.

"Just continue to grow, evolving packages, the no-huddle package. B.A. (offensive coordinator Bruce Arians) and I seem to be, somehow, and I don't know if that's scary or not, on the same page more and more every day when we talk about things and draw things up and design things. Those are the steps you have to take."

Q: How will the offense survive the loss of Holmes?

A: "You know you lose guys every year. It's not fun to lose a guy like that, a big ‘splash' player, a guy that was a great player for us. But you have to have guys be able to step up. You have to have Mike Wallace step up. If he takes the step that Nate Washington did from year one to year two that would be huge. Emmanuel Sanders, you've been watching him out there. I hope he doesn't read this and get a big head but he's looking pretty good.

"We have a lot of other guys that can step up. Are they ever going to be Santonio Holmes? Who knows? But they can be good players.

Q: Is this the season Miller breaks out and leads NFL tight ends in receptions, and could that help compensate for the loss of production from Holmes?

A: "Heath is truly getting better every year, and he's already, I think, one of the best. But yeah, I definitely think we can have three guys catch 100 balls. And that includes him."

Q: Would getting the running backs more involved in the passing game also help compensate for Holmes' absence?

A: "Guys are growing. You see Rashard doing stuff out of the backfield. We were a really good screen team a couple years ago. It kind of fell off a little bit. We need to be a better screen team but we (also) need to just get the guys involved on swing patterns, little check-downs, running what we call ‘choice' routes.

"Things that Mewelde (Moore) does a lot, Rashard needs to do. Isaac (Redman) and those guys, they all need to contribute out of the backfield."

Q: You've been checking down to backs in practices during training camp and even throwing the ball away on occasion. But one of your teammates maintains he doesn't know if you'll be able to play that way when the games begin to count.

Will you adjust your go-for-the-big-play mentality in an effort to help cut down on sacks? Can you?

A: "Well, I don't know, either. You try to be smart. You practice good habits out here. During the two-minute drill (on Sunday afternoon) Randy (quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner) said I was five of eight with three throwaways (on a 58-yard TD march). You throw the ball away. If you get out here and get your mind to practice doing that, to practice taking the check-downs it'll become easier to do it in a game.

"I'm not saying I'm going to do it every time but it'll be easier to do it."

Q: Your 16-yard touchdown pass to Miller that concluded Sunday's two-minute drill looked easy. Was that an indication of how quickly you're finding your game this summer?

A: "We had a hard count, got 'em offside and had a free play so why not take a shot down the middle? You have Heath matched up on a linebacker. And I saw it was No. 51 (James Farrior), who's getting a little old. We keep teasing ‘Potsie' about that.

"I think you can match Heath up on anybody. That's why we split him out all over the place. Your area to miss on Heath is huge. You can throw it pretty much anywhere and he'll one-hand it or two-hand it or do whatever he has to do."

Q: Given the relative uncertainty that exists along the offensive line, at wide receiver and at running back, will the success of the offense depend at least as much if not more on how those around you play as it will on how you perform?

A: "I think we're still really young, I really do. I think we have all the potential in the world as an offense. The O-line is playing great, there's a lot of depth. And obviously we have a lot of great receivers but they're young. Hines averages out the age of the guys a little but they're a great group of guys.

"Hines, with the leadership he has, Rashard coming back, getting better, staying healthy, that's the key. If we stay healthy I think we can be pretty good."


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