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Old 05-24-2005, 12:49 AM   #1
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Default Ben throwing early and often

The Steelers of spring have a different look about them that has little to do with new players or the absence of those who moved on. The offense is performing stunts infrequently seen last fall.

Quarterbacks are throwing the ball around their South Side campus as if tossing Frisbees on the beach. Last fall, they passed the football as seldom as any NFL team in the past 20 years.

Ben Roethlisberger asked the Steelers to open up the offense more, and it seems they will comply.

"Certainly, we want to run the football, that's our identity," said coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, author of play calls that resulted in 61 percent runs from scrimmage last season. "But I think we'll be able to do a few more things throwing the football this year, especially on first and second down, and I think that will even help us run the ball better."

The Steelers ran 618 times and passed 358 times (plus 36 sacks trying to throw) even though their quarterback had the best rookie season of anyone in the history of the league. Roethlisberger completed 66.4 percent of his passes for a 98.1 passer rating, both NFL rookie records.

But part of Roethlisberger's success came from the simple formula the Steelers used to provide him as much support as they could -- run the ball, pass only when necessary and play great defense. They limited the playbook as well.

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