Breaking Down How Ben Roethlisberger Has Evolved Under Todd Haley

Chris Gazze@ChrisG_PITCorrespondent INovember 9, 2012

When Todd Haley took over the Pittsburgh Steelers offense this offseason, he had quite a challenge of improving the offense while getting along with star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Not only have Haley and Roethlisberger avoided any conflicts, but Roethlisberger is playing some of the best football of his career.

Roethlisberger has changed the way he plays the game to fit Haley’s new scheme, which is a credit to both the coach and the player.

Gone are the days of Bruce Arians’ offense when Roethlisberger was scrambling for his life and forcing deep passes multiple times per game.

Instead, Haley has taken a methodical approach and has the offense utilizing a short passing game, which has kept Roethlisberger on his feet by getting the ball out of his hands quickly.

Despite the success, there was concern whether or not Roethlisberger liked this approach.

Roethlisberger caused a stir in October when he said the Steelers had a “dink-and-dunk” offense, but he later made it clear that he does not mind this scheme (via USA Today).

"That wasn't meant in a negative way," Roethlisberger said. "Coach Haley and I had a laugh about it this morning. To dink and dunk, that's moving the chains, and it will open up big plays. The Patriots dink and dunk, too."

The big plays have been slow to open up, but they are on the way. With an effective short passing game and a reinvigorated ground game, Roethlisberger will soon be able to throw deep to Mike Wallace and the other receivers for the big play.

Even though Roethlisberger would love to throw the deep ball, he has tweaked his game to not only accept Haley’s quick passing scheme, but also thrive in it.

"I'm an aggressive type of guy. That's how I play the game," Roethlisberger told USA Today. "So I've had to dial it down. But it's just growing and taking what the defense gives you and trying not to make a big mistake."

Prior to this season, Roethlisberger did not take what the defense gave him and the results were mixed. He would either make the big play or make the big mistake by taking a sack or throwing an interception.

That style of play led the Steelers to a lot of success, but Roethlisberger took way too many hits and as he aged, he needed to adjust his style of play.

Now Roethlisberger is taking short drops and getting the ball out of his hands quickly and the results have been fantastic.

He has only been sacked 17 times this season, which puts him on pace for the fewest of his career when playing in at least 15 games. Not only has he been sacked fewer times, but he isn’t being hit nearly at the rate that he has in the past.

Beyond taking fewer sacks, Roethlisberger’s production has not dropped as a result of the short passes. In fact, he is on his way to his best statistical season of his career.

Roethlisberger is on pace to tie or surpass career highs in passing yards, completion percentage and touchdowns. He is also on pace to have fewer interceptions than he has ever thrown in a season when playing at least 15 games.

This goes back to taking what the defense gives him and using every weapon that he has on offense by connecting with nine or 10 different receivers per game. This was unheard of when he was under Arians.

What has been most impressive about the Steelers offense is how it has evolved over the course of the season. Haley has adjusted the scheme to what is working and as a result the offense is becoming more balanced (via SportingNews).

"We want to be versatile, Roethlisberger said. We want to be able to do whatever it takes to win games, whether it’s run it, throw it. To me, it’s a credit to our players. We don’t have selfish players. If we have to run the ball, our receivers are going to block, our tight ends are going to block. If we have to throw it, the running backs block and help the receivers get open.

We’re constantly evolving. There are things we’re putting in mid-week. It’s going well."

Going well is exactly it.

The offense is getting more diverse each week and is on the verge of developing into one of the best units in the league.

Haley put the structure in place, but none of it would have worked if Roethlisberger did not buy into the system.

Not only has Roethlisberger bought in, but he has embraced the changes and is on pace for the best season of his career.

More importantly, the two have the Steelers back on track as one of the favorites in the AFC as a legitimate championship contender.


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