Looking for balance

The buzz in the Steelers locker room among some of the media on Wednesday was the return of Ben Roethlisberger to the field this Sunday, but it was also about the return of balance to the team's offense.

After four games the Steelers are ranked 29th overall in total offense, with the running game ranked eighth but the passing game last in the league at 32nd.

"We have to be balanced," said wide receiver Hines Ward. "We aren't going to shy away from the run. Rashard (Mendenhall) is running excellent. He is having a phenomenal year. At the same time we haven't been passing as much. We just have to find a way to get balance. If we can have that run-pass ratio balanced we'll be all right."

Through four games the Steelers have 81 pass attempts to 123 rushing attempts.  

"It opens it up," said Mendenhall. "You can't play strictly run, you can't play strictly pass. When you get the defense off balance it opens it up for the run.

"Ben adds another dynamic so we can make those big plays in the passing game and do nothing but improve our offense and our team."

With Roethlisberger back under center starting this Sunday against the Cleveland Browns at Heinz Field, expect that number to start gradually improving, while still remaining focused on running the ball.

"I would think we will be very balanced," said Roethlisberger of the approach on Sunday. "We are going to take what they give us. If they are loading up the box we will try and throw it, if they are sitting back we will run the ball.

"We don't want to try and force anything. That is going to be a key for me, not going out there and trying to force anything. I am not going out there and try to be Superman. I just want to go out and play my game."

And that is something his teammates are looking forward to.

"It's exciting having him back out there," said Ward. "Everyone has welcomed him with open arms. We are a better ball club when he is in the game. It's great to have him out and move forward.

"I am excited to get out there with him and get things going. We missed him. We left a lot of plays out there in the first four games. When protection breaks down, he can make big plays outside of the pocket."

Tackle Max Starks, whose locker is next to Roethlisberger, joked about having less space there now with all of the media surrounding Roethlisberger, but is enjoying seeing the way Roethlisberger is handling his return.

"Ben is happy to be back, happy to be back in the locker room," said Starks. "He is happy to be back with teammates and focusing on football. He has a greater appreciation for it."

Roethlisberger is anxiously awaiting Sunday's game, but the emotions probably won't fully hit until he steps on the grass at Heinz Field.  

"It's good to be back out there," Roethlisberger told the swarm of media around his locker. "I am taking it one day at a time and getting ready for a good Browns defense.

"I am anxious, excited, a lot of emotions. It's under wraps right now because I am focused on practice. It will be fun to be out here with my guys."   

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