By BOB LABRIOLA
As the Steelers were leaving the field at halftime of last Monday night's game against the Baltimore Ravens, a portion of the 64,038 at Heinz Field voiced an opinion of an offense that had managed three first downs, 46 total yards of offense and had just as many sacks allowed as points scored.
Ben Roethlisberger heard, and then he let his teammates in the locker room hear him.
"I was tired of being booed," Roethlisberger said, "I was tired of being embarrassed on offense. I told the guys that. I said, 'There's no need for it.'"
What he said exactly is unknown, but what definitely got everyone's attention was the volume at which he said it.
"Very unusual," Santonio Holmes said of Roethlisberger's outburst, "but being a captain, that's what we expect from him. He came in and stated his claim."
At halftime of that Monday night game, the Steelers offense had scored just one touchdown in the previous 10 quarters, which is a stunning statistic for a unit with so many talented players. Whether a rah-rah speech from one player to a group of others was responsible for the improvement that took place during the second half is unknown, but most likely the cause was something more directly related to football.
"I missed it," said Coach Mike Tomlin of Roethlisberger's outburst. "What happens is, a lot of times, I will say something to the team, we will let those guys refresh themselves, and we will gather as a coaching staff in the coaches' room for a number of minutes. Then we will come back out, and the offense will address the offense and the defense will address the defense, and then I will address the team before we leave. If anything occurred along those lines, it occurred during that time when the coaches were meeting in regards to schematic things, so I missed that."
One of the things to come out of the coaches' talking about "schematic things" was a move to the no-huddle.
"Ben has always been an advocate of no-huddle. He likes to get the keys to the car," said Tomlin, "but it wasn't a lot of debate or anything in that regard. The potential of it was thrown around briefly at the half and then initially at the end of the third quarter. When we got decent field position we went about doing it. We've put a lot of time practicing on that phases of our offense. We've got a great deal of comfort in it. It is obvious that Ben has a great deal of comfort in it. We are always capable of calling it when we feel like we need to change the pace."
The Steelers definitely needed to change the pace of that game in Philadelphia a couple of weeks ago, but it's not necessarily as easy to run the no-huddle on the road because of the difficulty involved in making sure everybody can hear the calls. The Steelers next game is Sunday night in Jacksonville.
"People say it is tough to operate the no-huddle on the road," said Tomlin. "Some people say it's a weapon because the crowd doesn't know when to cheer because you're never breaking the huddle to get to the line of scrimmage. Really it all boils down to the quality of your execution. So we will see what we are capable of doing, and we are willing to do it this week."