More no-huddle, please

| Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2008

Ben Roethlisberger laughed when the question arose Monday night, a half-hour after the Steelers' 23-20 overtime victory over the Baltimore Ravens.

Did he lobby coach Mike Tomlin and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians to go to the no-huddle offense late in the third quarter?

"That's the reason we went to it," Roethlisberger said. "I went to Coach Tomlin first and said, 'Go ask B.A.' And then B.A. asked me, 'Do you want to do it?'

"I said, 'Yeah, I was the one who came up with the idea.' "

Hmmm. Shouldn't that have been the other way around, and shouldn't it have happened much earlier?

You'd have thought the 37th sack of Roethlisberger in the Philadelphia game, or perhaps the rapid-fire succession of three-and-outs Monday night would have prompted Arians to try to change the pace.

All the no-huddle did, when the Steelers finally went to it, was turn the momentum of the game (combined with the idiotic personal foul on Baltimore's Jarret Johnson) and perhaps the momentum of the Steelers' season.

Be glad Roethlisberger spoke up. If he hadn't, the Steelers could well be two games behind the Ravens in the loss column instead of leading the AFC North at 3-1.

Roethlisberger's been pining for more no-huddle since before the 2006 season, when Bill Cowher was his coach and Ken Whisenhunt his offensive coordinator. It's surprising Arians hasn't gone there more often, seeing as his promise coming in was to turn the offense over to his maturing quarterback.

Given the Steelers' desperate plight at running back - I believe they're giving Dick Hoak a tryout today - this seems like the perfect time to do just that.

And that means more no-huddle.

It might not need to be the base offense. It definitely needs more air time.

The no-huddle allows Roethlisberger to call plays based on his feel for the game. It can keep a defense off-balance. Where others might see chaos in the no-huddle attack, Big Ben sees order.

He thrives in it.

"We kind of get a rhythm," he said. "It's going off what I see, not necessarily what the coaches see."

That sounds like a good thing.

Before going no-huddle Monday, the Steelers' offense was every bit as dreadful as it was a week earlier against the Eagles. Maybe worse.

When they took possession at their 33 with 5:49 left in the third quarter, the Steelers were trailing, 13-3, with an embarrassing total of 64 yards. Their previous six possessions had gone like this: interception; three-and-out; three-and-out; three-and-out; three-and-out; five-and-out.

This time, they moved 67 yards in four plays.

Now, it's hard to say the no-huddle was an immediate elixir. Johnson's late hit on Hines Ward and what Roethlisberger described as a "broken-play" 38-yard touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes accounted for most of the yards on that drive.

But look what happened afterward. The Ravens' defense suddenly could not dictate the tempo, as it had for the better part of three quarters. The Steelers, who went no-huddle for only one more series - a nondescript one, at that -- suddenly were able to move the ball (102 yards on their final three possessions).

In the end, going no-huddle meant a lot more than Big Ben's blistering halftime speech, though that also spoke to his progression as a leader.

"He led, and we followed," running back Mewelde Moore said. "It was motivational, man. He did everything that a leader's supposed to do."

Tomlin spoke Tuesday of needing to trust Roethlisberger more when the play clock is running down. It's time the coaching staff trusted the quarterback to play his preferred offense, as well.

Next time, Roethlisberger shouldn't have to ask.

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