Offense as versatile as it needs to be

With quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, running back Le'Veon Bell and wide receiver Antonio Brown on the field together for the first time in the preseason, the Steelers' first-team offense put on tape the ability to execute by the numbers and to improvise as required.

Both approaches resulted in touchdowns being scored on Friday night in New Orleans.

The first was a 5-yard pass from Roethlisberger to tight end Jesse James on third-and-goal from the Saints' 5-yard line on a play that didn't work out as planned.

"'A.B.' (Brown) came first, obviously two guys on him a lot," Roethlisberger explained. "And then Le'Veon was supposed to be the next guy into the hole. Jesse got one or two guys kind of pushing on him and it made Le'Veon go outside of him, so there wasn't really anything there. The line pushed everything left, I was going to step up and then Jesse kind of popped open."

Brown's initial crossing route drew the attention of LB James Laurinaitis and FS Jarius Byrd. Both vacated the center of the defense and followed Brown, who had lined up in the slot on the right of the formation just off James' right shoulder.

DE Cameron Jordan got penetration on James, which forced Bell to release outside to the flat rather than inside.
James turned Jordan free and headed toward the end zone.

Roethlisberger stepped inside of Jordan, who had a clear path to the pocket after escaping James, then stepped up. That drew cornerback P.J. Williams and safety Kenny Vaccaro away from James and toward the line of scrimmage to cut off Roethlisberger's path to the goal line.

James was wide open when Roethlisberger delivered the ball on the run.

"Kind of a little makeshift, scramble, backyard play," Roethlisberger said.

Roethlisberger's 57-yard catch-and-run connection with Brown on the Steelers' second possession played out as it had been drawn up, eventually.

The Steelers had to call a timeout following an incompletion before snapping the ball on third-and-3 from the Steelers' 43.

"We were in the no-huddle mode," Roethlisberger said. "That's one of those instances where (offensive coordinator) Todd (Haley) wanted to call a play. So we had to switch personnel and we didn't get the personnel on in time. So rather than try to rush the play when people weren't ready, might as well call timeout, be smart, be safe.

"We stuck with the play and 'A.B.' did the rest."

Brown was also in the slot this time, just inside wide receiver Markus Wheaton on the left of the formation.

The Saints pressed with cornerback De'Vante Harris on Brown and cornerback Delvin Breaux on Wheaton.

Wheaton broke hard inside and Brown cut outside behind Wheaton at the snap and the Saints' defenders didn't switch.

Roethlisberger accepted a shotgun snap, dropped one step and released the ball with Brown having made it only to the Steelers' 45.

He eventually caught the ball at the New Orleans 42 and was gone.

Roethlisberger saw both touchdown passes as an example of what the Steelers are capable of when approach and execution come together.

"We were probably 90 percent no-huddle, calling it as we see it and going," he said. "I thought it was a good combination of that and then Todd chiming in with a play or two here or there, which is, I think, when we're at our best.

"When they see something (in the coaches' booth or on the sideline) they holler it in to me and we get it called and things happen and it worked right."

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