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Steelers film study: Big Ben ... pocket passer?

| Monday, Sept. 17, 2012, 11:59 p.m.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger throws against the Jets at Heinz Field Sept. 16, 2012. Chaz Palla | Tribune Review
Steelers safety Ryan Clark breaks up a second quarter pass intended for the Jets' Stephen Hill at Heinz Field September 16, 2012. The Steelers won 27-10. (Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review)

It has become common knowledge that Ben Roethlisberger is pretty good at eluding the pass rush and making plays down the field, and the Steelers' 27-10 win Sunday over the New York Jets was no exception.

When he moved around in the pocket — by design or necessity — Roethlisberger completed 7 of 10 passes for 98 yards and a key 37-yard touchdown pass to Mike Wallace, finishing with a passer rating of 134.6.

But what has been glossed over with the continued maturation of Roethlisberger as a quarterback is his ability to be a legitimate pocket passer.

Roethlisberger showed that last year against New England when he picked apart the Patriots' defense, and again against the Jets this past weekend.

Roethlisberger completed 17 of 21 passes for 177 yards and a touchdown when he was a “statue” in the pocket. He finished with a passer rating of 117.7 in those situations.

Nothing was more evident about Roethlisberger's ability to stand in the pocket and deliver a strike than on a third-and-8 late in the first quarter. With the Jets sending seven defenders, Roethlisberger rifled a pass from the left hash to the right sideline for an 18-yard gain.

It wasn't that long ago that Roethlisberger was a one-read quarterback. If the first guy in the route wasn't open, he'd scramble to try to make something happen.

It's not like that anymore.

Other observations

• Offensive coordinator Todd Haley wanted to show the Jets' defense different looks during the opening drive, and he sure did. On the 10-play drive to open the game that resulted in a 45-yard Shaun Suisham field goal, Haley didn't have the same personnel grouping or formation on the field once. He did have two-receiver sets on the field for eight of the nine plays, but never the same grouping.

• A week after using the three-receiver set 51 times, the Steelers surprisingly scaled back the formation against a depleted Jets secondary by using three wide receivers only 14 times.

• Heath Miller is probably the most underrated blocking tight end in the game. Whether facing a defensive end or a linebacker Sunday, Miller was dominant.

• Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez was very erratic, and that wasn't more evident or more damaging than when he overthrew a wide-open Santonio Holmes in the back of the end zone in the second quarter. A good throw would've given the Jets a 14-6 lead rather than 10-6. It was a huge momentum swing for the Steelers.

• A week after rushing the quarterback only four times until 10 minutes remained in the game, linebacker LaMarr Woodley wasn't asked to rush Sanchez frequently until the final four minutes Sunday. Woodley rushed Sanchez 14 times and dropped into coverage 13 times. However, seven of those pass rushes came on the final two drives of an already-decided game. Woodley finished with a game-high seven pressures.

• It was hard to find a player who had a better offseason than Steve McLendon. However, it is apparent the Steelers are deferring to veteran Casey Hampton, for now. Hampton took 28 snaps at nose tackle; McLendon had only 9.

• The Steelers have one of the best rotations of defensive linemen in the league, and position coach John Mitchell isn't afraid to sub in liberally. Starters Ziggy Hood (56), Brett Keisel (46) and Hampton (28) accounted for 130 snaps, and reserves Cameron Heyward (17), McLendon (9) and Al Woods (2) added 28 others.

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