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Big Ben aiming for balance

The Steelers are oh-so-close to being one of only two unbeaten teams in the NFL.

Whatever disappointment the Steelers felt after Joe Flacco beat them with a late drive should be tempered by what happened on a gray, drab Monday.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger returned to the Steelers following a four-game suspension. And that changes everything for a team that still managed to go 3-1 without him.

There is no reason to think Roethlisberger, who had been punished for violating the league's personal conduct policy, won't come back better than ever.

He is hyper-focused, is in the best shape of his career and is eager to make amends to teammates and the organization he let down with his off-field behavior.

The bye week gives Roethlisberger extra practice time with the rest of the first-team offense. And there might not be a better opponent for the Steelers in Roethlisberger's first game back Oct. 17: In the four full games he has played against the Browns at Heinz Field, Roethlisberger has averaged 258.5 yards per game, totaling eight touchdowns and two interceptions.

Roethlisberger, who threw for 4,328 yards last season, won't just help a passing game that ranks next to last in the NFL (136 yards per game). He will also take some pressure off Rashard Mendenhall, who is second in the NFL in rushing despite opposing defenses keying on the Steelers' running game.

"I've been saying for years now that I think we need to be a balanced team, and when I say balanced team, I'm not trying to throw the ball 60, 70 times a game," Roethlisberger said. "Obviously, as a quarterback, you'd like that, but if we're balanced and we run and throw and do the things that we need to do effectively, then we can be a dangerous football team, especially offensively."

Quotable

• Wide receiver Hines Ward, on the Steelers winning three of their first four games without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger

"It shows the depth we have on this team and the type of players that we have on this team. It just talks to the quality of players that we have on our team, the togetherness. Yeah, we're 3-1 but we could easily be 4-0 right now."

• Coach Mike Tomlin, on losses

"I hate them all, but that's the journey we are on. Not only us, but everyone. You love opportunities such as (playing the Ravens). It's what we all signed up for in the NFL."

• Free safety Ryan Clark, on the Steelers' bye week

"The positive of it is we get to go have an extra week to fix what's wrong. We get an extra week to get Ben acclimated back with everybody. We'll take all that and move on."

Digits

3 -- Turnovers the Steelers forced through the first four games in 2009

12 -- Turnovers the Steelers have forced through the first four games this season

55 -- Percentage of games the Steelers have won the week after their bye in the last 20 years

356 -- Number of carries Rashard Mendenhall is on pace to have this season

390 -- Steelers' single season-record for carries (Barry Foster, 1992)

Three games to watch

• Chiefs at Colts

Who would have guessed that NFL's lone unbeaten team is in this game and that it's not the Colts?

• Giants at Texans

Houston is trying to build on the best start in franchise history. Giants sacked Jay Cutler nine times in the first half Sunday.

• Vikings at Jets

Brett Favre loves the Monday night stage, but the Jets provide a stern test for the quarterback that has gotten off to a slow start.

3 questions with Steelers WR Mike Wallace

Q: If you could trade places with someone for a day, who would it be?

A: "Bill Gates, because he has all the money, and then, you don't have to work if you don't want to. So, I'd just go buy me an island and shack up there and live it up."

Q: What would happen if you raced Usain Bolt in the 40-yard dash?

A: "He'd beat me but, I'm going to keep it decent. I'm going to keep it exciting."

Q: What was the hardest adjustment to the NFL for you?

A: "Just learning that it's a job and not fun. At any time, you could be going home. This is not college, and you don't have a scholarship, and they don't have to keep you around. You have to come in and work hard every day, or you could be at home."

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