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Old 10-17-2010, 11:01 PM   #1
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Default Steelers' offense is whole again as Ben returns


Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Steelers' offense is whole again as Ben returns

By Scott Brown
Sunday, October 17, 2010

The timing appeared to be peculiar if only because Mike Tomlin showed perhaps his most visible signs of news-cycle fatigue after the curtain had finally dropped on the Ben Roethlisberger saga.

The fourth-year coach offered less than expansive answers Sunday after the Steelers continued their mastery of the Browns at Heinz Field. And if he seemed a little on edge at his postgame news conference, it quickly became apparent why.

"It was going to happen guys," Tomlin said of Roethlisberger making his season debut yesterday in front of an announced crowd of 65,168. "It was going to be a story in some form or fashion. It's not our story. Our story is the story of the 2010 Steelers and our quest to win football games."

Roethlisberger is the most vital link between the two, and his 2010 season is off to a good if belated start.

Roethlisberger threw for 257 yards and three touchdowns as the Steelers hold off pesky Browns in front of fans that mostly cheered him. The offense, meanwhile, gave a glimpse as to what kind of unit it can be by scoring three touchdowns in the second half.

By late afternoon, as shadows stretched across a mostly empty stadium, the Steelers were 4-1 and alone atop the AFC North. Just as significant, they had gotten Roethlisberger's much-anticipated return out of the way and can now concentrate on, you know, football, with a three-game road stretch looming.

"I think our offense can be just as good as our defense," said Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace, who caught three passes for a game-high 90 yards and a touchdown. "I know that sounds crazy because of how good our defense is, but I just feel like the sky is the limit."

Roethlisberger, who missed the first four games while serving an NFL-mandated suspension, is the main reason why such optimism abounded following the Steelers' seventh-straight home win against the Browns (1-4).

Playing in his first regular-season game since last January, Roethlisberger completed 16 of 27 passes and finished with a passer rating of 112.7.

On his 29-yard touchdown strike to Wallace and also on a 50-yard completion to the second-year speedster, Roethlisberger delivered passes under heavy duress.

He also showed his ability to escape collapsing pockets, which has long been a trademark of the seventh-year veteran.

Roethlisberger did appear to be overanxious on a couple of throws, most notably one in the first quarter that backup running back Mewelde Moore would have needed a ladder to catch.

Joe Haden intercepted the errant throw at the 3-yard line and weaved his way into Steelers territory with a long return.

That set up the first score of the game, a 39-yard field goal by Phil Dawson.

It didn't take the Steelers long to reclaim the lead for good. And on the second-quarter touchdown pass to Wallace, Roethlisberger put the ball in a good position despite getting drilled by outside linebacker Matt Roth.

"I felt like I left a lot of plays out there," Roethlisberger said. "That being said, we won the game and did pretty well on offense."

The Steelers struck a healthy balance between the pass and run and finished with 378 yards of total offense.

The offense only figures to improve as Roethlisberger gets more in sync with the teammates he did not practice with in September.

"I thought he played well, but I'm not surprised," Tomlin said. "He was sharp in preseason and training camp. He was sharp when he came back. He missed a few throws. He's not perfect. None of us are."

Scott Brown can be reached at sbrown@tribweb.com or 412-481-5432.
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