Steelers Notebook: Players had no worries about Big Ben
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Many Steelers players acted surprised yesterday that anyone would think there was something wrong with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger or their passing game based on a few appearances in the preseason.
That Bill Cowher was one of those who had expressed just such a concern did not matter.
"Preseason doesn't give you a real grasp of how a guy's going to play," wide receiver Cedrick Wilson said . "He's very confident in the huddle. It's his team and he brings the offense together and he's a great leader out there on the field. He was able to manage that football game very well for us."
Roethlisberger threw only 11 passes but spread it around to six receivers with Antwaan Randle El, Wilson and Hines Ward each catching two. Even tight ends Jerame Tuman and Heath Miller caught important passes, Tuman's carrying 27 yards and Miller 3 yards for the rookie's first NFL touchdown.
The first offense that did not score a touchdown in four preseason games scored four touchdowns Sunday against Tennessee.
"That's preseason," tackle Marvel Smith said. "I guess [the media] needs something to talk about."
Even Ward said they were not worried about their showing in the preseason.
"[The media] was more worried about it than us," Ward said. "We looked good out on the practice field."
It wasn't just the media talking about it.
"Would I like to see us more in sync in the passing game?" Cowher asked last Tuesday. "Yes, and that's the one thing I would come out of the preseason saying I wish we would have done better. But we are where we are. That's really the only true element I am, if you want to use the word concerned or worried about, that's it."
Whatever the reason, Roethlisberger looked as good as he ever did during his sensational rookie season. Not only did he have that perfect 158.3 passer rating, he was not sacked and he ran for a first down.
"For a quarterback as young as Ben, you'd think you'd try to start off slow," Wilson said. "But he's a gamer, he comes out and plays the game well. We only had to throw the ball 11 times to get as much production as we did, that's pretty good."
Quarterback Charlie Batch, released on Saturday to make room for an extra linebacker, rejoined the team yesterday and attended their meetings although a club spokesman said the team had not made a move, meaning Batch remained, officially, a free agent.
Rookie linebacker Andre Frazier took Batch's place, leaving the practice squad for the active roster and he sacked Steve McNair in the fourth quarter and forced a fumble on the play. He also had two tackles.
Starks, Smith OK
Max Starks, making his first start at right tackle, left the game with an ankle injury, but returned to play. Left tackle Marvel Smith left with a twisted knee. Cowher pronounced both as OK. Barrett Brooks filled in for Starks and then Smith.
Yesterday, Starks said, "I'll be fine."
Starks, on blocking for Willie Parker:
"Any of our backs, you give them a little space, they'll make something happen. Just with Willie, once you get that little bit of space, he's going to take off 30 yards downfield and we're not going to catch him to throw any blocks downfield.
"He definitely has that deceptive speed. If he gets to that corner, it's hard for anybody to take a really good angle on him unless its 30, 35 yards downfield before you get to him."
Few passes, no problems
What's it like to play wide receiver on a team that threw the ball only 11 times?
"It's difficult, but we were able to establish the run," said Wilson, who signed as a free agent from the 49ers this year. "Our offensive line and Willie Parker did a fantastic job of managing the game and Ben did a great job of spreading the ball around. And the defense did a great job of getting us the ball back. We won, 34-7, so there's really nothing to complain about."
Of those 11 passes, only two came in the second half, both on the first drive that produced a touchdown and a 27-7 lead. It was all running downhill after that.
"It's always good when you have a little lead and you're trying to pound away a little bit," coordinator Ken Whisenhunt said. "That's something that we like to do."