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Print

Ben, Haley on same page

Posted Nov 21, 2013

It was more a collaboration than a coincidence.

Offensive coordinator Todd Haley had been after quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to get the ball out of the pocket quickly more often when practical. And Roethlisberger had wanted to run more no-huddle offense since before Haley became the Steelers’ offensive coordinator.

Last Sunday at Heinz Field, Roethlisberger did both with great regularity. And the result was a 37-27 victory over Detroit.

“The thought that (Haley) and I came up with and he wanted me to emphasize was think quick, quick tempo, quick snap counts on first and second downs, and then on third down you can kind of slow it down, see what they’re giving you, check for blitzes, do things like that,” Roethlisberger explained.

“The first series I knew was going to be no-huddle so I went in with about five or six plays in my head. I’m thinking ‘These are quick-hit plays. No one really has to think, the line doesn’t have to identify anything; you just go.’ That’s kind of the way it started, and we did a couple of drives throughout the game that were that way.

“On the sideline I’m like ‘This is what I’m going to call, this is what I’m going to call, this is what I’m going to call,’ and you just go with it.”

It worked well enough for the Steelers to explode for 14 first quarter points and to rally for 14 fourth quarter points on the way to a season-high 37. It worked out as Haley and Roethlisberger had envisioned it could, and for wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery that came as no surprise.

“They work well together,” Cotchery said of the quarterback and the coordinator. “A lot of people have created this whole idea that they don’t get along, things of that nature. I think they get along so well it afforded them (the opportunity) to come up with stuff that helped us move the ball. It’s been working pretty well for us.”

The up-tempo/no-huddle/quick-release approach was designed to neutralize the pass rush of the Lions’ defensive line.

On the Steelers’ first touchdown, a 34-yard hookup between Roethlisberger and wide receiver Antonio Brown, Roethlisberger took a two-step drop after accepting a shotgun snap and found Brown 4 yards past the line of scrimmage. Brown did the rest.

On the second – a 47-yard connection – Roethlisberger dropped three steps after taking the shotgun snap, stepped up through an opening in the line and threw on the run. Brown was 9 yards down the field when he caught the ball, and 38 yards after that he was in the end zone again.

Similar occurrences yielded results if not scores on the way to a 29-for-45, 367-yard, four-touchdown afternoon for Roethlisberger.

That’s not the way it used to work when Roethlisberger was hooking up with Mike Wallace on touchdowns of 40-plus yards with regularity, but Roethlisberger isn’t complaining.

“Those are your accuracy throws, when the people who appreciate and understand are like ‘Wow, he got that ball in there,’” Roethlisberger said. “Compared to a guy beating a defender and he’s running deep, a lot of people can throw that ball. But when you can fit it into a tight window and a guy makes the play, that’s special.”

That’s an offensive component the Steelers hadn’t often displayed this season.

“Certainly, the line did a good job of protecting, the receivers did a good job of getting open, and Ben did a good job of getting the ball to the right spots and, I guess, getting it there in a quick manner,” tight end Heath Miller said.

“We have the ability to do that. Obviously, our receivers are built to run after the catch. If we can get them the ball in space they’ve proven they can make big plays. It doesn’t matter how you get big plays as long as you get them and sometimes it’s easier to do it that way.”

Haley and the offense had been working toward that end well in advance of hosting Detroit.

“We’ve been on the same page, and I’d been saying I felt like we were on the cusp of playing pretty good offense,” Haley said. “We had a couple of real good periods of no-huddle in practice for three or four weeks leading up to (Detroit). Early in the week (last week) I started saying, ‘We’re going to start out this way. If we get things going we can stay in it,’ and that’s really what happened.

“Ben did a great job of preparing to be ready for a game that could go that direction, and it takes a lot of preparation to be ready. The communication between the coaches and him and then coaches to other position groups was tremendous, which it has to be when you’re playing like that.

“I take my hat off to everybody who was out there having to execute. The whole group came out and executed, and it started with Ben.”

SPAETH RETURNS
Tight end Matt Spaeth returned to practice with the Steelers this afternoon.

Spaeth (6-foot-7, 260 pounds) had been on the injured reserve/designated for return list since Sept. 3 after sustaining a foot injury in training camp.

The Steelers have 21 days to activate him to the 53-man roster, release him or return him to the injured-reserve list.

“Hopefully, Matt’s showing up (active) here soon,” Haley said. “He’s been working hard, and we’ll see where it goes.”

Spaeth, a third-round pick out of Minnesota in 2007, spent his rookie season through 2010 with the Steelers.

He left for Chicago as a free agent and played the 2011 and 2012 seasons with the Bears before returning to the Steelers as a free agent last offseason.

Spaeth has 49 receptions for 353 yards and eight touchdowns in 91 career NFL games (56 starts).

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