Steelers QB dismisses preseason woes, looks to opener vs. Browns
Ben Roethlisberger is moving on quickly from one of the Steelers' worst both-sides-of-the-ball preseason performances of recent vintage.
Moving on to the Cleveland Browns, in fact.
Roethlisberger won't play against Carolina on Thursday night — he hasn't appeared in a preseason finale since 2010 — so he has begun watching Browns video for the Sept. 7 opener at Heinz Field.
After all, the Browns game counts. And, to Roethlisberger, the offense's ups and downs during the preseason simply don't.
“The preseason is just that,” Roethlisberger said Monday, dismissing the notion that the 31-21 loss in Philadelphia on Thursday presages potential struggles for the offense.
“It's for kind of getting the chance to look at things, different reads. We move guys around to see where guys could best fit. It's the preseason. We've stayed healthy, and that was the most important thing.”
Neither the offense nor the defense could keep up with the Eagles, who led 24-0 and 31-7 in the second half. Roethlisberger (15 of 27, 157 yards, one touchdown pass, one interception) and the running game never found a rhythm.
The receivers often struggled to get open, and the timing between quarterbacks and receivers was off at times. Most of the starting unit's yardage came in the second half after Philadelphia pulled its defensive starters.
The third preseason game most replicates a regular-season game because starters play into the second half, but Roethlisberger said the play-calling and strategy are much different.
“Even such things as the snap count, we try to keep it basic,” said Roethlisberger, who spoke for the first time since the game. “It might sound silly, but we just don't move guys around a lot. We'll just keep them in basic spots. … You force some issues, but that's what it's for. I don't want to call it preseason practice, but it kind of is.”
The offensive formations are vanilla so as not provide any regular-season road maps for defenses, the game-planning is minimal and plays are being tested.
For example, Roethlisberger quickly threw two touchdown passes out of the no-huddle against the Buffalo Bills on Aug. 16, but he abandoned the no-huddle after one series in Philadelphia.
“There was one of the drives specifically coach was in my ear, asking if we wanted to go ahead and call it, and I waved him off,” Roethlisberger said. “At that point it was a 17 (point deficit) or worse. It wasn't worth showing anything at that point. (So) let's just huddle up and work on things we need to work on from a huddle standpoint.”
As for the slow-to-start running game, Roethlisberger said, “I think (it) will be just fine” because the Eagles were offering looks that encouraged throwing.
The Steelers' offensive game plan for the Panthers is expected to be basic because the teams play a regular-season game in Charlotte in only three weeks.
“Our game plan's not done, and we'll see how vanilla we get as the week goes on,” said backup quarterback Landry Jones, who is expected to play most of the game.
Because Browns first-year coach Mike Pettine was the Bills defensive coordinator last season, Roethlisberger and quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner also are watching Buffalo video.
“You see some different stuff, different players (with the Browns), but still three down (linemen) and mixing some nickel stuff in,” Roethlisberger said. “I don't want to give away everything I've seen in case they change stuff up, but nothing that is glaring right now (because they have) a new coach.”
With the Browns game less than two weeks away, the Steelers will be looking to stop a three-game losing streak in season openers. Since the franchise was founded in 1933, they've never lost four straight openers.
Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.
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