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Old 12-02-2005, 01:39 AM   #1
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Default Ben and WR's say passing game will return

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/05336/615984.stm

By Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Contrary to popular opinion, Ben Roethlisberger believes he can get into a shootout with the Cincinnati Bengals, who have the NFL's No. 2-ranked offense. And, he believes he can do it with a passing game that, contrary to popular opinion, is even more productive than last season when the Steelers were 15-1.

The Bengals (8-3) were held to 13 points the previous time the teams met in Cincinnati's Paul Brown Stadium, and that included a meaningless touchdown in the final minute. But heading into Sunday's AFC North showdown at Heinz Field, the Bengals have scored 79 points the past two games against the same two defenses -- Indianapolis and Baltimore -- that held the Steelers to 20 points.

"I think there are a lot of people who think we can't afford to get into a shootout," Roethlisberger said. "You ask me and the receivers, I think we can. We can throw the ball. We're waiting for that opportunity, for someone to give us a chance to do it."

The Steelers' passing game, which ranks 26th in the league, has been out of sync recently. The most obvious reason is that three quarterbacks -- Roethlisberger, Tommy Maddox and Charlie Batch -- have started the past three games. It has not helped, either, that Pro Bowl left tackle Marvel Smith did not play against the Ravens and missed 21/2 quarters against the Colts, forcing the Steelers to use rookie Trai Essex against two of the best pass-rushing defensive ends in the league -- Terrell Suggs of the Ravens and Dwight Freeney of the Colts.

But as the season has progressed and the number of big passing plays has dwindled, it would appear the biggest problem is the Steelers miss Plaxico Burress, who left in free agency, more than they imagined. Certainly, the evidence would suggest as much.

Last year, Burress and Antwaan Randle El, who was the No. 3 receiver at the time, combined for 54 catches, 968 yards and five touchdowns after 11 games. This year, Randle El and Cedrick Wilson, who was acquired in free agency to help replace Burress, have combined for 40 catches, 680 yards and only one touchdown after 11 games.

Even Randle El, who hasn't caught a touchdown since the season opener, said, "We were more productive last year. But we don't throw it as much. I thought we've passed much less than last year."

But that is not true.

The Steelers (7-4) actually have attempted more passes (266) and passed for more yards (1,861) and touchdowns (15) than they did after 11 games last season.


Hines Ward doesn't have as many catches (44) as he did at this point last season (60), but he has more touchdowns (6 to 3) and is averaging more yards per catch (14.3 to 12.7). And while Randle El and Wilson haven't combined for as many catches as Burress and Randle El did in 2004, part of that is because rookie tight end Heath Miller has emerged to catch 30 passes for 274 yards and six touchdowns.

Last season, the tight ends -- Jerame Tuman, Jay Riemersma, Matt Cushing and Walter Rasby -- combined for 22 catches and 240 yards.

"If you add Heath's numbers in there, the numbers are probably the same," offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt said.

Still, something appears to be missing, a notion even Ward acknowledged.

The Steelers started the season with seven pass plays of 35 yards or longer in the first three games, more than any other team in the league. Five of these were to Randle El and Wilson.

After that, the duo didn't have a catch that long until Wilson caught a 35-yarder Monday night in Indianapolis -- a span of eight games. And Randle El and Wilson have been rotating every two series at the split end, or X, position, which is designed for deep passes.

"To me, we're open," said Ward, a four-time Pro Bowl receiver. "We have guys open. That's not the problem. The problem is, for whatever reason, we're not seeing them ... the protection might break down.

"It's kind of hard to run deeper routes when you look back and the quarterback is on the ground already and you can't protect. That plays a factor, too. It's kind of hard to send your receivers past 15 yards when, for whatever reason, protection might break down. We have some open-guy opportunities, we just couldn't get them the ball down the field."

"We're not concerned," Randle El said. "Ben is healthy, and we have to keep him healthy and catch hold of it. It's just a matter of getting into our routes quick enough and the quarterback putting it out there for us and let us go make a play."

In case, that is, there's a shootout.
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Old 12-02-2005, 12:32 PM   #2
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Default Re: Ben and WR's say passing game will return

Man would it warm my heart to see us win a shootout vs. the bung's. I'll admit i'm a big fan of the forward pass. Our defense is definately heads and shoulders above theirs too. :)
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Old 12-02-2005, 12:42 PM   #3
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Default Re: Ben and WR's say passing game will return

It is interesting that the P-G is running a happy story today that the passing game will return while on the same day the Trib-Review has a story in which the receivers are stating it is not their fault the passing game is a mess. However, even the P-G story has Hines Ward blaming protection breakdowns for any problems. That seems to be true, but going public with a statement that a problem is someone else's fault is not what you would expect from a team leader.

The other obvious explanation for the more negative tone of the Trib-Review story is that it prominently features team cancer Cedrick Wilson. Wilson clearly wants out - if the Steelers can eat the cap hit, I bet they will get rid of him.

If the Steelers lose Sunday, look for the players and fans to let loose with a lot of frustration that has been building up.

Last edited by Atlanta Dan; 12-02-2005 at 12:52 PM.
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Old 12-02-2005, 03:19 PM   #4
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Default Re: Ben and WR's say passing game will return

Yeah cedric is far from anything spectacular.. the guy should have done his research before he signed w/ us if he was gonna gripe.
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Old 12-02-2005, 03:56 PM   #5
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Default Re: Ben and WR's say passing game will return

Our offensive line needs to get it together before we try to get into a shoot out with any team..........even the texans.......
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Old 12-02-2005, 04:29 PM   #6
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Default Re: Ben and WR's say passing game will return

It better return in a big way if we are entertaining any possibilities of making the playoffs!
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Old 12-02-2005, 04:34 PM   #7
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Default Re: Ben and WR's say passing game will return

I shall add this once again...
If the steelers wanted to open up the passing game we could......Staley is great comming out of the back field......Heath is an animal over the middle and Heinz Ward is Heinz Ward. now that 3 options and we only used on receiver so far........There is no excuse why we can not pass other than cowher is too stubborn or stupid to do so........... not to mention our offensive line
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Old 12-02-2005, 07:31 PM   #8
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Default Re: Ben and WR's say passing game will return

Bring on the passing game !
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Old 12-02-2005, 08:02 PM   #9
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Default Re: Ben and WR's say passing game will return

Kill The Bugles..
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Old 12-02-2005, 08:08 PM   #10
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Default Re: Ben and WR's say passing game will return

I agree we have some recieving threats... Ward, Miller over the middle, and Deuce or Willy out of the backfield, but we are missing the downfield threat... We lost that after giving up Burress...
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