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Steelers film session: Big Ben spared wrath of Lions

| Monday, Nov. 18, 2013, 10:33 p.m.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
The Steelers' Le'Veon Bell outsprints Lions defender Stephen Tulloch during a second-quarter run Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013, in Heinz Field.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger jumps into his offensive line after throwing a first-quarter touchdown against the Lions on Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013.

It's no secret that Ben Roethlisberger likes the no-huddle offense.

And it's no secret that Roethlisberger enjoys running the offense out of the shotgun formation.

Throw in a banged-up struggling-to-protect-the-quarterback offensive line going against a stout Detroit defensive front, and the Steelers rarely went with a conventional formation Sunday.

And it worked.

Roethlisberger was sacked once, knocked to the ground twice and threw four touchdowns.

The Steelers' offense scored more points than it has in more than two years by going almost exclusively to the shotgun formation in both the running and passing game.

And there also was a heavy dose of no-huddle for both as well.

Roethlisberger threw the ball out of the shotgun in 40 of his 45 passes, with the only attempts from under center coming on four short-yardage or goal-to-go situations and one on an incomplete pass to Antonio Brown. Roethlisberger was 2 of 5 for 3 yards and a touchdown while not in the shotgun.

Add 10 run calls out of the shotgun and it was the most times offensive coordinator Todd Haley has aligned the Steelers' offense in that formation all season and the second-greatest percentage of shotgun passes that Roethlisberger has thrown this year.

Against New England, the Steelers threw out of the shotgun 43 of 48 passes. Just last week, the Steelers attempted only 20 passes from the shotgun against Buffalo. Against the Jets in Week 6, Roethlisberger threw from the formation a season-low 13 times.

Roethlisberger has completed 157 of 243 passes for 1,826 yards, eight touchdowns, seven interceptions and 14 completions of 25 yards or more while in the shotgun this year.

In the shotgun and in the no-huddle, Roethlisberger completed 15 of 24 passes for 236 yards and two TDs.other observations• Despite success with the no-huddle offense, Roethlisberger was just as successful throwing the ball when huddling. Roethlisberger was 14 of 25 for 229 yards and two touchdowns in the no huddle and 15 of 20 for 138 yards and two touchdowns while huddling. Roethlisberger's passer rating were similar (113.6-126.7). The Steelers also called 10 running plays out of the no huddle that resulted in only 22 yards.

• Disruptive defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was held to one tackle in 61 plays against the Steelers. While a lot of the credit goes to David DeCastro, he did get plenty of help. DeCastro single-blocked Suh 27 times and teamed with center Fernando Velasco or tackle Marcus Gilbert 11 other times, allowing a tackle, an assist and five quarterback pressures. Gilbert blocked Suh 10 times by himself, with the majority of those coming in short-yardage situations. Velasco was matched up seven times, Guy Whimper once and David Paulson once.

• It appeared that Matthew Stafford's interception late in the game was the same play call as the 79-yard touchdown pass to Calvin Johnson in the second quarter. It was similar, but different. Tight end Brandon Pettigrew was lined up on the left side of the formation with running back Joique Bell as the single set back on the touchdown. This forced Will Allen into the box, and the play-action kept him around the line of scrimmage. On the interception, Stafford was in the shotgun, and Pettigrew was on the right side of the formation. When running back Theo Riddick stayed in to block, Allen was able to get back to help on Johnson.

• Jim Schwartz's decision to attempt a fake field goal wasn't without a reason. Ryan Clark routinely lines up on the left side of the formation on the field goal unit as the only defender standing up. If the outside right wing (Ike Taylor) is trying to block the field goal, at the snap, Clark races from left to right to protect against an outside fake. However, when he does that, it leaves the right side of the formation vulnerable, with only four players to the left of the long snapper. During the fake attempt by the Lions late in the game, holder Sam Martin held the snap count for an extra moment, allowing Clark to get out of position.

• Safety William Gay didn't allow a single reception against the Lions. He was thrown at six times, but that isn't necessarily indicative of his level of play. Gay was beaten deep on the first and final series of the game by Kevin Ogletree. One pass was overthrown and the other was dropped. Gay also was the beneficiary of back-to-back plays in the final two minutes — a Jeremy Ross drop and Allen's interception of a Stafford pass to Johnson down the field.

• Rookie linebacker Jarvis Jones got pulled for the final Detroit offensive play of the game after running into and knocking over fellow rushing linebacker Jason Worilds just before getting drilled to the turf by Detroit guard Rob Sims. However, Jones may have just saved the game for the Steelers three minutes before that. With the Steelers leading 30-27 with 4:40 left, Calvin Johnson beat Ike Taylor's press coverage to the inside and was coming free across the formation into space when Jones stepped up and knocked him to the ground within the 5-yard legal limit. Stafford threw incomplete to Riddick instead.

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