5 Ways the Pittsburgh Steelers Can Help Ben Roethlisberger Get Better in 2013
Ben Roethlisberger had two distinct parts to his 2012 season. The first was excellent, an MVP performance that came to a crashing halt against the Kansas City Chiefs. The second was a disaster marked by two very poor throws to lose consecutive games and seal the playoff fate of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
With the Steelers looking to rebound in 2013, they will need their quarterback on top of his game once again.
Here are five ways they can help him get there.
Play His Game
Perhaps, the biggest shortcoming of Todd Haley as a coach is that he's very stuck in his ways. He created an offense for the Pittsburgh Steelers that ignored the team's two biggest strengths: a mobile, strong quarterback and a dynamic corps of receivers.
Haley chose to focus the attack around the team's lackluster running game and a short passing game that was able to sustain long drives, which bottled up Ben Roethlisberger and prevented him from making those big splash plays that can turn a game in an instant.
If Haley returns to Pittsburgh in 2013, he must adapt the offense back to one that goes deep with regularity and relies on the rushing attack and play-action to set things up.
While those clock-controlling drives have their place, they don't belong early in games where gaining momentum and the advantage on the scoreboard are far more essential.
Take off the Pressure
Speaking of that rushing attack, the Pittsburgh Steelers must do more with it in 2012. The ineffective nature of the ground game in 2012 led to Ben Roethlisberger making too many throws. The Steelers were required to rely on screens and short slants in lieu of a running game.
When the rushing attack was on target, it is no coincidence that Roethlisberger and the rest of the offense clicked with great regularity and packed a scoring punch that is hard to match anywhere else in the league.
Unfortunately, those moments in the sun were limited to a couple of games or parts of games.
In 2013, the Steelers need to rebuild the backfield with fresh players. Only Jonathan Dwyer should be brought back. The team needs to find a big back for the goal line and a speedster to complement Dwyer in the middle of the field and on screens.
Rebuild the Receiving Corps
Pittsburgh's receiving corps experienced a huge letdown in 2012 as pending free agent Mike Wallace and emerging stars Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders all took a giant step backward during the season.
Wallace, who's protracted holdout alienated the fanbase, became a player with almost zero effort who dropped easy passes and big-play balls alike.
Brown, who signed a nice extension before the season, became drop-prone as well and made some serious mental errors down the stretch on punt returns and on offense that led to losses.
Sanders simply couldn't get on track, but emerged from the season as the most consistent of the team's receivers.
In 2013, the Steelers must help Ben Roethlisberger by coaching the mistakes out of Brown and Sanders, replacing Wallace with free agent Plaxico Burress, who needs a bigger role out of the slot and in the red zone, and once again, involving possession receiver Jerricho Cotchery in the system.
Get the Tight End Involved Again
Down the stretch, the tight end disappeared from the offense. Heath Miller once again faded into the darkness because of schematic issues that harkened back to the days of Bruce Arians.
That cannot happen again in 2013.
With Miller sidelined for a time due to his ACL injury, David Paulson must step up and be the leader in the red zone and in the middle of the offense. His receiving skills are good, and he will be successful as a temporary starter if Miller misses part of the season.
The Pittsburgh Steelers fell in the rankings for total offense in 2012. That's inexcusable given their personnel and the hoopla associated with replacing respected coordinator Bruce Arians with the volatile Haley.
Ben Roethlisberger is one of the most-effective no-huddle quarterbacks in the NFL with the ability to lead drives on his own by calling his own plays at the line.
Unfortunately, Todd Haley didn't allow much no-huddle in 2012. He seemed to be more interested in controlling the game with his own plays and his own scheme than he did with maximizing the talents of his star quarterback.
That has to stop. One of the most consistent complaints under Bruce Arians was that Pittsburgh didn't run the no-huddle except to end a half or in a do-or-die situation.
Many expected Haley to make it a featured part of the offense as other teams have done. Instead it became an afterthought.
In 2013, expect it to be brought back with a vengeance. If the Steelers utilize this attack style early in a game or whenever they want to swing momentum quickly, they will win a lot more games and score a lot more points.