PITTSBURGH – Ben Roethlisberger is finally getting pretty much everything he wanted as a quarterback.
After years of lobbying for the opportunity to run a no-huddle offense more than just a series or two each game, Roethlisberger has been given that chance by offensive coordinator Todd Haley.
As a result, the 10th-year quarterback’s statistics are better than ever. He’s on team-record pace for completions and total yards in a season and has an outside shot to set a record for touchdown passes.
So why isn’t the Steelers’ quarterback in a good mood?
“I’m motivated to win,” Roethlisberger said.
And there’s the rub.
All of the great statistics haven’t added up to many wins. For an ultra-competitive player such as Roethlisberger, who has never had a losing season at any level, having a 5-8 record heading into the final three games of the season is unacceptable.
“I think the numbers speak for themselves,” said Roethlisberger. “I think we’re getting better every week. Obviously, the ultimate goal is to win the game, but offensively our goal is to get better and we’ve done that.”
Which is why, when asked if this season has been frustrating, Roethlisberger replied, “Very.”
Roethlisberger has completed 320 of 500 passes for 3,724 yards and 24 touchdowns. His yardage is already the third-most in team history, with his team-record of 4,328 within sight. He’s likely to break the record for completions (337) and attempts (519) when the Steelers host Cincinnati (9-4) Sunday night.
Last week, Roethlisberger broke Terry Bradshaw’s career record for touchdown passes, throwing three in a 34-28 loss to Miami.
The Steelers have scored 20 or more points in six consecutive games for the first time since 2009 and are averaging 24.7 points per game since a 20-10 loss at Cincinnati Sept. 16.
Not only is Roethlisberger on a record-setting pace, wide receiver Antonio Brown is second in the NFL in receptions with 90 and fourth in yards with 1,240. Rookie running back Le’Veon Bell is averaging more than 90 total yards per game.
“I think we’ve got a lot of pieces in place who can make that next step,” Roethlisberger said. “I think the cohesiveness that we have on offense is a good thing. Hopefully, it can translate into these last couple games and then into the offseason.”
But even the increased offensive output hasn’t helped offset a defense that has allowed 17 plays of 40 or more yards.
The offense’s margin for error has been small because of the defense, and Roethlisberger, playing behind an line that has used six different starting combinations, has made some critical mistakes. Roethlisberger’s 10 interceptions have set up five touchdowns and one field goal for opponents, and his eight fumbles have been turned into three touchdowns.
There remains a belief among his teammates that Roethlisberger is the unquestioned leader of the offense.
“He’s been razor sharp making sure young guys understood what’s at stake, making sure every man to a man knows their job,” Brown said.
Roethlisberger plans to continue that process in the final three games. He’s not ready to begin reflecting on how the season has progressed and the things that went wrong.
“We’re still looking forward,” Roethlisberger said. “Maybe in the offseason we’ll look back and scratch our head.”
Odds and end zones
Center Cody Wallace, caught on video grabbing the crotch of Miami defensive lineman Randy Starks from behind while scrambling for a fumble Sunday, said he was trying to reach for the football and let go as soon as he realized what he was doing. Wallace, who was making his first career start, was called for a personal foul late in the game for running into a pile and hitting a Miami player after the whistle. He could be fined for both infractions. … Offensive tackle Kelvin Beachum (knee), wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery (shoulder) and guard David DeCastro (foot) were full participants in practice Wednesday. Defensive end Brett Keisel (foot), offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert (ankle), defensive end Ziggy Hood (ankle), nose tackle Steve McLendon (ankle) and safety Troy Polamalu (shoulder) were limited.