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Old 12-01-2010, 06:56 AM   #1
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Default Roethlisberger's running lifts offense

Roethlisberger's running lifts offense
By Mark Kaboly
Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Ben Roethlisberger likes to refer to himself as a gunslinger, and why not? He's pretty good at it.

Roethlisberger thoroughly enjoys getting out of the pocket in order to make the big play down the field. Not many quarterbacks have done it better than him over the years ... well, maybe except for this year.

Teams have made a concerted effort to keep the Steelers' quarterback in the pocket with a controlled rush. When Big Ben has gotten free, teams have made sure covering receivers deep down the field is their top priority.

"That's fine, we'll take that," Roethlisberger said. "(I'll) just stay in the pocket and throw the ball."

Or maybe he'll just take off and run.

Roethlisberger has chosen the latter recently, making big plays with his legs instead of his arm over the past two games.

Roethlisberger ran for 55 yards, including a 16-yard touchdown run, in a win over Oakland two weeks ago. He converted a key third-down play with an 18-yard scramble this past week against Buffalo, a run that coach Mike Tomlin called "a significant, uplifting play for our football team."

Roethlisberger, whose season started late because of his suspension, had only 30 yards rushing over his first five games. He has 73 the past two games, but keeping that number inflated might be difficult this week against Baltimore.

Roethlisberger suffered a right foot injury against Buffalo and will spend the better part of the week in a protective boot. He's expected to start against Baltimore in Sunday's key AFC North matchup, but the running may be put on the back burner.

"I am just seeing something and doing it," Roethlisberger said of his recent running success. "It is not a design thing. It is just trying to make a play."

Doing it with his legs has been an adjustment for Roethlisberger.

"He is probably his best when he rolls out of the pocket and people know that, and they are trying to keep him contained," receiver Mike Wallace said.

That was evident during the first month Roethlisberger was back from his four-game suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy.

Through his first five games Roethlisberger was still scrambling, but he was looking down the field to throw.

In that span he scrambled 42 times, completed 17 of 30 passes, was sacked seven times, fumbled once and ran five times. In the most important stat of all, he was successful on just one big play when he ducked under Cameron Wake, moved up in the pocket and connected with Hines Ward for a 43-yard completion against Miami.

"I am pretty sure teams are concise and keeping him inside of the pocket so he doesn't make plays," Ward said. "But he is still getting away."

In each of the past four games, Roethlisberger has decided to run for a big play rather than throw.

He had first-down scramble runs against Cincinnati and New England before his career-high rushing day against Oakland.

Against the Bills, he looked downfield once he slipped the sack attempt of Chris Kelsay. Despite being chased by Marcus Stroud, Roethlisberger turned upfield and juked Jairus Byrd near the first-down marker. The 18-yard gain on a third-and-17 play led to a go-ahead field goal.

"Almost like what you did when you played in the backyard as a kid," Buffalo safety Donte Whitner said.

Buffalo nose tackle Kyle Williams, who was able to corral Roethlisberger for a pair of sacks, was impressed with the 6-foot-5, 241-pound Roethlisberger's mobility.

"He makes things happen with his feet; that's his deal," Williams said. "He can do it to run or to pass."

Mark Kaboly can be reached at mkaboly@dailynewsemail.com or 412-664-9161.
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Old 12-01-2010, 07:43 AM   #2
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Default Re: Roethlisberger's running lifts offense

As long as he holds onto the ball let him run all day.
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