Friday, October 17, 2014

If Steelers are trying to put Ben in his place, it's put them in theirs: last

By Mark Madden
The Beaver County Times
October 17, 2014

  • Ben Roethlisberger is sacked by DaQuan Bowers (91) and David Lavonte (54) during the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-24 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, September 28, 2014, at Heinz Field.

The misuse of Ben Roethlisberger is so mind-numbing, it’s easy to put credence in crazy conspiracy theories. Ready to begin filming now, Mr. Stone

Obfuscating the situation further is the unclear delineation of who decides what when it comes to the offense. Roethlisberger haters blame every bad call on a Ben audible. Todd Haley haters see the offensive coordinator as the root of all evil, insistent on even calling plays in the no-huddle, thus slowing it to a crawl.
That last part is true, by the way.
Roethlisberger handed the ball off 13 straight plays in the first quarter at Cleveland. Has Tom Brady done that? Would Brady acquiesce to that?
Hines Ward says Roethlisberger calls the plays. That’s nonsense. Roethlisberger certainly didn’t call 13 straight running plays. Do you get the feeling that Ward enjoys it when the Steelers stink without him?
Roethlisberger has been Tomczak’ed. He manages the game until the Steelers trail and it’s time to bail them out. But until then, he rarely throws downfield. Rarely takes shots at the end zone.
Roethlisberger is an elite quarterback who isn’t utilized like one. He has two Super Bowl rings, but gets tortured by the whims of a golf coach with a silver spoon.
It’s easy to tell Haley never played football. He coaches to prove how clever he is. He takes the element of surprise and boils it down until only a residue of stupidity remains. Haley has no feel for 11 guys in the huddle pulling the same rope.
Haley coaches like an individual because he never put on a helmet.
But this goes beyond Haley. This points to an organizational disdain for Roethlisberger despite his accomplishments.
Have the Steelers ever truly forgiven Roethlisberger for Milledgeville? Wasn’t Haley brought into replace Bruce Arians -- Roethlisberger’s friend and mentor -- by way of putting Roethlisberger in his place? Wasn’t Haley given a mandate to run the ball more? To keep the superstar QB from being bigger than the logo?
Roethlisberger has certainly been put in his place. The Steelers have also been put in theirs. Last place.
It’s hard to believe the Steelers would put winning at risk by way of grinding an ax with somebody responsible for a $19-million cap hit this season. Ludicrous.
But no more ludicrous than the way Roethlisberger is being used.
Haley’s past offers him potential absolution for the Steelers’ offensive predicament, or at least raises questions.
When Haley was Kansas City’s head coach from 2009-11, he pounded the ball on the ground with running back Jamaal Charles. When Haley was Arizona’s offensive coordinator from 2007-08, QB Kurt Warner filled the air with footballs.
Haley previously played to the strengths of his personnel. In Pittsburgh, the primary strength is Roethlisberger. Why won’t Haley use him better?
The Steelers have been worse. They’re 3-3, not 0-6. “It’s not like it’s the end of the world,” as guard Ramon Foster said.
But, even during bad years, the Steelers rarely feel chaotic. This team feels chaotic, looks chaotic and plays chaotic. Little discipline.
The offense has top-notch performers at QB, running back and wide receiver, but can’t score. The defense is terrible, and the justifiably venerated defensive coordinator clearly has no Plan B.
The Steelers believe they can look within and find the answer. They block out all outside influences and dig deep. Last year’s 6-2 finish is their evidence.
But that 6-2 finish lied. The Steelers missed the playoffs. They’re going to miss the playoffs again, for a third straight season.
The arrow keeps pointing downward Monday night when Houston visits. Who’s going to block J.J. Watt? Who’s going to tackle Arian Foster? Who’s going to cover Andre Johnson? National TV, and the natives will be restless.
After the season, the Steelers have to negotiate a new contract with Roethlisberger. He has one year left on his current deal.
Family may dictate. Misguided team loyalty may also prompt.
But if you were Roethlisberger, would you want to stay in Pittsburgh? How much do the Steelers really want Roethlisberger? Fair questions, both.
Mark Madden hosts a radio show 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WXDX-FM (105.9).

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