Big Ben hasn't been perfect, but he's been close
By Mike Prisuta
Wednesday, August 1, 2007
Ben Roethlisberger's first interception of training camp didn't occur until Wednesday morning, as good an indication as any of the type of training camp Roethlisberger has been having.
"He's been amazing," offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said.
"Feelin' good," Roethlisberger said.
So good that he was able to laugh off an ill-advised toss to tight end Heath Miller that wound up in the hands of strong safety Troy Polamalu.
"That actually was a new play that we put in today," Roethlisberger said. "I blame Bruce for that."
You can do that in August.
When it happens in September and October, as it did to Roethlisberger repeatedly last season along the way to an NFL-high 23 interceptions, it's no laughing matter.
Roethlisberger, to his credit, has refused to cite his offseason motorcycle accident, his preseason appendectomy and the concussion he suffered Oct. 22 in Atlanta as factors.
And Arians, to his credit, has looked beyond such obvious extraneous influences and detected flaws the Steelers would like to correct beyond Roethlisberger making regular trips to the hospital.
One was Roethlisberger's habit of sticking with his first and/or second progression a little too long.
"When you're staring down No. 1 and you don't throw it, you bring a lot of guys over to No. 2 and No. 3," Arians said.
Another was Roethlisberger's continued insistence on trying to force the ball into what Arians called "a little bitty hole."
That stuff hasn't been happening in camp.
Roethlisberger has demonstrated an ability to look off a target and a confidence in that receiver still being where he's supposed to be if and when Roethlisberger comes back to him.
And he's taking fewer chances when it comes to threading the needle in the red zone, although a couple of lasers in such situations made it through the DBs and into the hands of their intended targets for touchdowns last Friday night at Memorial Stadium in Latrobe.
Roethlisberger also delivered a perfectly thrown fade to Miller in the same red zone drill.
There was nothing Polamalu or anyone else could have done to prevent the touchdown.
In addition to making quicker decisions and, at times, decisions that aren't quite as risky, Roethlisberger will be asked to make changes in the blocking assignments for his offensive line.
That's something he'll have to do maybe twice a game in Arians' estimation, or not at all if Roethlisberger is comfortable that the "hot read" response to an anticipated blitz is a viable option.
The biggest change in his line-of-scrimmage responsibilities will involve audibles.
For the first time in his career Roethlisberger is being encouraged to call them.
"Total freedom," Arians said.
Arians is also adamant that the no-huddle offense Roethlisberger has been longing to run "should be a big part" of what the Steelers do on offense.
"We're going to try to experiment with things in the preseason and just keep growing," Arians said.
Roethlisberger has grown to the extent that Arians' goal for him is to reduce those 23 interceptions by more than half.
"Single digits," Arians said, "and somewhere between a 2:1 or 3:1 touchdowns-to-interceptions ratio, and a high completion percentage."
So far thus summer, Big Ben has struck one, but only one.
His resurrection is off and running.