QB Roethlisberger, Steelers' offense still manage to strike balance
By Alan Robinson
Published: Monday, Nov. 11, 2013, 10:24 p.m.
Sometimes perception isn't reality. Especially when it comes to the Steelers offense.
Especially when it comes to Todd Haley versus Bruce Arians.
The myth: Arians' offense was more Ben Roethlisberger-friendly by allowing him to throw downfield more and emphasize the deep pass over the run.
The reality: Roethlisberger is going deeper more often in Haley's offense than he ever did in Arians' offense.
The myth: Haley is focused heavily on the run, so much so that it's affecting Roethlisberger's ability to get a passing game going when he does get the opportunity to throw.
The reality: The Steelers (3-6) haven't thrown more or run less than in the past 1 1⁄2 seasons.
The perception: Roethlisberger isn't playing as well in Haley's balanced offense as he did in Arians' Ben-is-the-focal point system from 2007-11.
The reality: Statistically, Roethlisberger is performing just as well. The biggest difference is the Steelers' won-lost record.
“Being balanced is always key for us,” Roethlisberger said after the 23-10 win Sunday over Buffalo.
Except the Steelers' offense never has been more unbalanced. They are throwing 63 percent of the time and running 37 percent — a near flip-flop of the 60 percent rushing and 40 percent passing during the 2005 Super Bowl season, when Arians was wide receivers coach.
The high percentage of passes is partly attributable to the Steelers constantly falling behind; they have trailed by 10 points or more in each of their six losses.
The highest percentage of passes (57.6 percent) to runs (42.4) under Arians came in his final season in 2011.
“I'm unhappy with the offense when we don't produce, but that's on me as much as anybody,” Roethlisberger said.
With Roethlisberger fully enmeshed in a Haley offense that he himself tweaked by making numerous offseason suggestions, his season is similar to when Arians ran the offense.
He is completing a slightly higher percentage of his passes, 63.8 percent to 63.4, and he is throwing one of every 20 passes for a touchdown, just as he did under Arians. His interception rate is slightly lower (2.3 percent to 2.5), and his passer rating of 92.9 is just off the 94.0 he had under Arians. Until several weeks ago, it was higher under Haley.
Even as the Steelers went 8-8 last season, Roethlisberger was the NFL's seventh highest-rated quarterback in Pro Football Focus' player evaluations — the same as he was under Arians in 2011. He was No. 6 in 2009 and '10 but No. 27 when the Steelers last won the Super Bowl in 2008.
The dink-and-dunk offense Roethlisberger talked about last season? There's no more dinking under Haley than under Arians.
Roethlisberger is on pace to attempt 249 passes of 10 yards or fewer this season — almost the same as last year's 246 and the 252 he threw during the 2008 Super Bowl season.
Last season, Roethlisberger threw 379 passes of 1 to 20 yards, only nine more than the 370 he attempted under Arians in 2011. And he's on pace this season to throw 70 passes of 20 yards or more; the highest total he threw under Arians 65 in 2010.
Roethlisberger also loves calling his own signals out of the no-huddle offense, which requires a shotgun formation. He is on pace to run 397 shotgun formation plays this season; he ran 335 last season. The highest total he ran under Arians was 313 in 2011.
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