Times are changing, and even traditionalist franchises like the Pittsburgh Steelers are adapting to the changes, putting Ben Roethlisberger in a position to have more control over his offense, as they hope to use more no-huddle plays compared to before after finding them very successful during the second half of last season.
The Steelers finished 8-8 in 2013 despite their awful start, as their offense got a positive jolt as they won six of their final nine games. They ran at least 15 no-huddle plays in each of those game, averaging better than 10 points more each game than they did in their first seven games, going 2-5 through them.
At 32, Roethlisberger isn’t exactly young or completely healthy. But the offense is his, more than it has ever was, even during the years when the Steelers won or simply reached the Super Bowl. The famous running game is gone or is at least inferior to the past. The defense is going through some tough times and rebuilding. The offensive line as well. The quarterback who was nothing more than a facilitator for a long time is now more important than ever.
Roethlisberger is acting like he is that important through the OTAs, missing just one of them so far because of family obligation. The Steelers averaged just under 28 points in the second half of last season, and that seems to be the tone they’re setting going into 2014. After two years with no playoffs, stuck in mediocrity and an unclear identity, it seems like the Steelers have decided on who they want to be and how they want to look like.
I think it’s something that we realized where we can be and what we did last year, and where we were successful, so I think we’ll use it more. I don’t want to call it our base offense, but I think you’ll see more of it, so it was more important for us to get it in early and often.
Roethlisberger isn’t going to become Peyton Manning all of a sudden. It’s probably too late at this stage. But in a way, he is going through the same thing Tom Brady went through: A quarterback that’s part of a bigger system early on, slowly becoming a better, more complete and dominant player until the team completely belongs and depends on him later on.