The evolution of Ben


As the Steelers' offense has climbed from No. 21 overall to No. 20 to No. 2 in three seasons under coordinator Todd Haley, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has found a comfort zone that's helped facilitate the rise.

And that was the idea all along.

"The name of the game was to get Ben to continue to evolve and get better with age, so to speak," Haley explained. "I think he has done nothing but continue to improve, at least since I've been here."

The Evolution of Ben was apparent on the stat sheet in 2014. Roethlisberger tied his franchise record of 32 touchdown passes and set Steelers records with 608 attempts, 408 completions and 4,952 passing yards (which tied Drew Brees of New Orleans for the NFL lead).

Roethlisberger also played in all 16 regular-season games for the second consecutive season and for just the third time in his career.

He was sacked 33 times while doing so, a relatively low number for a quarterback who had absorbed more than 40 sacks six times in his first 10 NFL campaigns.

"It was him making good decisions, and when the ball needed to come out (of the picket) quick, it came out quick a lot of the time and that led to positive plays," Haley said. "At the same time, one of the best things he does is keep a play alive and make a big play.

"I think what he did as good as anything last year was that he picked his spots. He knows that's not something he can do every single play. I thought he did a good job of picking those spots when to make the Ben-like plays. And he is the best in the world at that."

Quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner characterized Roethlisberger as having "taken his game, somewhat, to another level.

"He sees things really well," Fichtner said. "He understands where to go with things. He understands the run game, how it meshes with the pass game and those kinds of things.

"Ben's a unique talent, no question. When he has great understanding and sees and feels defenses and things, he's really pretty good."

Fichtner stopped short of saying Roethlisberger is playing the best football of his career.

"You're going to say it statistically," Fichtner said. "He's going to say it and I'm going to say it, it's not his best ball until we win a Super Bowl.

"He's been there and that's the expectation."

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