With training camp underway, the media typically flocks towards players looking for the next soundbite players have to offer. In the case of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, they got a message loud and clear on Sunday; that the veteran signal-caller believes that the Steelers will field a better offense in 2015 than their record-breaking performance in 2014.
In 2012, Roethlisberger and then recently-hired offensive coordinator Todd Haley were about as far apart on the direction the offense should take as Cold War relationships between the United States and Russia. After building a strong relationship with Bruce Arians, Roethlisberger had heard the rumors that spread across the league that Haley was difficult, demanding and did not interact well with players under him. The result was that Pittsburgh struggled to find a balance and suffered with unsuccessful seasons. That changed when Haley and Roethlisberger buried the proverbial hatchet, causing a ripple effect that led to one of the most proficient, explosive offenses in the NFL last season.
After seeing what a little extra communication could create, Roethlisberger wants more this season. “We want to start fast and we want to be able to put 30 points on the board in every game,” the 12-year veteran said. Roethlisberger was candid in telling members of the media at camp at Saint Vincent College that he and Haley have developed a relationship that is nearly as close as the one he continues to enjoy with Arians who is the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals. “I think the relationship and chemistry that Todd and I have now is getting to that B.A.-type level,” Roethlisberger told the Post-Gazette. “We’re friends. We went fishing and he sent me pictures of his fish, just things like that. Anybody who sees it, whether it’s from afar or up close, can see that the relationship is not fake. It’s not for the cameras, it’s a genuine relationship and it works.”
With Haley and Roethlisberger on the same page, it allowed receiver Antonio Brown and running back Le’Veon Bell to get to new heights as well. Roethlisberger likes that the Steelers scored a franchise-record 436 points, but isn’t convinced that Pittsburgh’s offense can’t achieve more. Praising his offensive line as “good as any in the league, and as good as any (he’s) had”, Roethlisberger also heralded the work Brown has put in, calling the offense a “special group.”
The Steelers saw less production on defense, a shortcoming that forced the offense to compensate in order to win games. Roethlisberger isn’t concerned that won’t change. “I feel they’re going to take what happened last year to heart,” said Roethlisberger. “I know there’s some change there with coach [Keith] Butler and coach [Dick] LeBeau being gone and some new guys. But they’re really starting to come along. They’re a fast, physical group.”
Roethlisberger pointed out what he feels is the secret to how successful the team has been – the offense being owned by the players. “For a coordinator to put ego aside, to say this is not my offense it is all of our offense…” Roethlisberger said of Haley, “I just think that speaks volumes for him.” Successful teams have most often been the ones that have taken ownership and responsibility for their overall performance, and once the Steelers came together – coaches and players alike – things steamrolled forward at an amazing clip.
Last season, the Steelers offense also set franchise records in first downs (379), total yards (6,577) and passing yards per game (301.6). As for Roethlisberger, he set a team record with 4,952 yards passing, a 67.1 percent completion rate and 32 passing touchdowns.
As for those 30 points a game, Roethlisberger says the team still wants it “because that is our goal.”