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Steelers looking for offensive consistency

| Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012, 10:18 p.m.
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PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 28: Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers warms up prior to the game against the Washington Redskins on October 28, 2012 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

The Steelers reach the halfway point of their season in one week, and it still hasn't happened yet.

The Blowup: Todd Haley vs. Ben Roethlisberger.

As the Steelers (3-3) enter their Sunday game at Heinz Field against the Washington Redskins (3-4) and rookie quarterback dynamo Robert Griffin III, Haley's offense has more than begun to emerge. It's all but fully established.

The essence of it: Roethlisberger is getting the ball out faster and more accurately than ever and is getting sacked less. Even with one of the NFL's deepest cast of receivers, he isn't going deep as often as he did when Bruce Arians called the shots.

Now, Haley isn't calling those same shots, and because he isn't, the quarterback might be a little healthier than usual as November approaches.

“That's something that is at the top of the priority list. He's the leader of this team, and we need to make sure that he's protected as much as we can protect him,” Haley said. “Teams know what we're about, and if they're taking away the deep stuff, he's done a great job of finding the guys that are open on each and every pass play.”

Roethlisberger referred to that scheme last week as “dink and dunk,” and immediately some NFL national reporters seized upon the remark as evidence that tension was brewing between a quarterback who likes to gamble and an offensive coordinator who prefers a less-risky, ball-control attack.

“In three years of being a head coach, I've learned to insulate a little bit,” said Haley, the former Chiefs coach. “I get texts and things, but the most important thing to me is what's happening out here and what's happening on Sunday and that we're getting better. Ben is doing a terrific job of leading this offense. The great thing is (if) he can continue to get better along with everybody else, we'll be cooking with gas, so to speak.”

If the Steelers are to light the flame of what has been a hot-and-cold season, Sunday might be the day to do it.

They struggled in the past with mobile quarterbacks who can't be flagged down by a defensive line that is experienced but not very fast, and Griffin is a faster, better-throwing version of Michael Vick.

But here is evidence Roethlisberger could have a big day: The Redskins have 10 interceptions but allow 328.4 yards passing per game, or 51 yards per game more than the Steelers give up rushing and passing combined.

“But I don't look at them as either giving up a big play or the big play possibility being there,” Roethlisberger said. “They are a takeaway machine. They take the ball away and score on defense. To me, that's something I need to keep my eyes on rather than the big play being available.”

Haley couldn't have said it better.

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at arobinson@tribweb.com.

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