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Big Ben spreads the wealth on offense

September 17, 2012
By John Mehno ( , The Altoona Mirror

PITTSBURGH - Ben Roethlis-berger isn't playing favorites.

After completing passes to eight different receivers in the Pittsburgh Steelers' season opener at Denver, he topped himself by connecting with 10 different pass catchers in Sunday's 27-10 victory over the New York Jets at Heinz Field Sunday.

Roethlisberger completed passes to four wide receivers, three tight ends and four running backs. Some of that variety is a product of new offensive coordinator Todd Haley's scheme, which includes more passes to the backs.

Article Photos

Ben Roethlisberger says thank you after a replay shows a Steelers touchdown counted.
Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich

"That can be a weapon for us, taking the short pass," Roethlisberger said. "Taking a 5-yard pass, they call that run game alternative. I think that's good for us."

Roethlisberger had a solid game, completing 24 of 31 passes for 275 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. His passer rating was 125.5, the highest against the Jets since New England's Tom Brady posted a 148.9 on Dec. 6, 2010.

"You're not going to beat a quarterback with a 125 rating and 36 minutes of possession," Jets coach Rex Ryan said. "And that's exactly what happened."

The Steelers came out throwing the ball a lot, but kept it on the ground in a time-consuming possession late in the game. That one took 10:13 off the clock in the fourth quarter, covered 75 yards in 14 plays and ended with Isaac Redman's two-yard run.

The Jets' defense was visibly fatigued by the end of drive and the Steelers were slipping away from their tackles.

"We probably could have called a pass down there, but it's a little special to run it in," Roethlisberger said. "Run a little power behind (guard) Willie Colon and the fullback. They did a great job. The linemen love that."

Colon said that drive gave him chills, because the offensive linemen took it upon themselves to clear running lanes.

"We feel that we can throw the ball and move it," Roethlisberger said. "It's a heart taker, if you will. The linemen just love it. It wears down defensive linemen and linebackers, having to pound against big linemen like that. Our backs did a great job and the line opened holes for them."

Memories of Hines

Roethlisberger invoked the name of retired receiver Hines Ward in recalling a difficult catch Antonio Brown made in the fourth quarter.

Brown, who was Roethlisberger's favorite target (seven catches), was able to hold the ball for a third down conversion despite absorbing a crunching hit from LaRon Landry.

Roethlisberger's pass was high, the result of a sweat-dampened ball slipping out of his hand on the release. Brown caught the pass for a first down, but was vulnerable to the big hit.

"It was awesome," Roethlisberger said. "It was good to see him pop up. I know he's probably hurting, but at that time, that emotion gets you up and gets you going. That was something we used to see from (number) 86. It was good to see from him. It got our guys going, and the crowd going, and he bailed me out."

Catching up

Tight end Heath Miller has two touchdown catches in two games, matching the total he had for the entire 2011 season.

But the low-key Miller said he pays no attention to his personal stats.

"All I care about is winning," he said. "I just try to do the job week in and week out."

Not much Tebow

The Steelers spent part of the week preparing for the wildcat offense operated by backup quarterback Tim Tebow.

They didn't see much of Tebow, though.

"We were having a tough time getting off the field," Ryan said.

High praise

The Jets couldn't stop the Steelers on third down, and Ryan praised the Steelers for that.

"We just couldn't get it done," he said. "I think when you look at it, it was more to do with Pittsburgh and the way Ben was able to extend plays like he does. [They] made some huge conversions on third down against us when we got a chance to get off the field. We couldn't get him down. I know that's not the first time that's ever happened. He just, every time you play, you appreciate the guy more and more."

Filling in

As expected, linebacker James Harrison (knee) and safety Troy Polamalu (calf) were inactive.

Chris Carter started in place of Harrison and Ryan Mundy filled in for Polamalu.

Taylor shrugged off the absence of two Pro Bowl players.

"We just do what we have to do," he said.

The last word

Rookie punter Drew Butler took a dramatic fall under a strong rush, trying to draw a penalty for roughing the kicker.

"When you feel contact, you fall down," he said. "I'll probably hear about that when we watch the tape."

Stats and streaks

The Steelers are 16-4 against the Jets in the regular season, 7-1 at home.

On the same page

Roethlisberger threw a 37-yard touchdown pass to Mike Wallace on a 3rd-and-16 in the third quarter, a play that required some improvisation on both ends.

Roethlisberger had to scramble to avoid the rush. Wallace adjusted to the ball, and moved in front of defender Antonio Cromartie to make the catch.

"I knew Mike was streaking down the field and I knew it was third and long and I just kind of wanted to kind of throw it up to him," Roethlisberger said. "I knew he didn't have the defender beat down the field.

"It's one of those plays where you kind of throw it up and let your guy make a play. You figure even if it's intercepted, it's either going to be a touchback or hopefully Mike can tackle him and it's just as good as a punt. You have faith in your guy. I put faith in Mike that he was going to make a play, and he did."

The Jets' Ryan said, "That killed us. That was a backbreaker. That was a killer play in the game."

Turning it around

Tomlin talked to the team about the importance of redemption after opening the season with a loss at Denver.

The players heard the message, but had their own spin on bouncing back.

"Most good teams don't lose two in a row," tight end Heath Miller said.

Said Roethlisberger, "You always want to win the game, no matter what happened the week before. For me, I don't ever come into a game thinking we need payback or redemption. I just want to win the game.

"But it's big for us to win at home. We want to put on a good show in front of our fans against a great team and a good defense. That was a good challenge for us offensively. We got the 'W' and that was all that mattered."

Cornerback Ike Taylor said losing wasn't an option.

"First game at home, we got to give the fans what they want," Taylor said.

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