Steelers emphasized short passing game in preseason opener

Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

In his first year as offensive coordinator a season ago, Todd Haley's play-calling seemed to favor quick passes to the backs and receivers. In the Steelers preseason opener against the Giants, Saturday evening at Heinz Field, it appears that same passing style will again be on the menu of Ben Roethlisberger's wristband playbook in 2013

In the Steelers opening preseason game in Philadelphia last August--the first game of any kind under new offensive coordinator Todd Haley--extremely short, quick passes to both the receivers and running backs were highlighted throughout the evening.

After the game, a number of fans, both on BTSC and elsewhere, asked the question: "Is this how the passing offense will look in 2012?"

For the most part, it was how the offense looked last season. Short, quick passes to the wide receivers--including the bubble screen made famous by abhorred OC Bruce Arians--were usually the passes du jour on the menu of Ben Roethlisberger's wristband playbook.

After many seasons of deep passes to the likes of Mike Wallace, there really was an emphasis on Roethlisberger getting rid of the football faster and more efficiently under Haley's watch.

Getting passes into the hands of running backs was also more of a feature in Haley's offense a year ago, and never more so than in a Week 6 loss to the Titans, when Isaac Redman became the first Steelers back in over 40 years to have 100 receiving yards in a game.

While Haley did begin to open things up as the season progressed, the mandate that team president Art Rooney II handed down in the offseason about Roethlisberger "tweaking" his game was certainly taken seriously by the coaching staff and begrudgingly heeded by Roethlisberger himself, whose efficiency (especially on third down) was never better, prior to being injured in Week 10.

Would the quick, short passing game be the staple for the Steelers' offense again in 2013? If what was on display Saturday night was any indication, the answer is an emphatic "yes!"

Pittsburgh's preseason opening loss to the Giants Saturday night seemed to be a carbon-copy of the first exhibition game of 2012 against the Eagles. Roethlisberger employed quick, underneath throws to the likes of Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders.

Screen passes--particularly inside screens--were also utilized quite often, especially to running back Jonathan Dwyer, who gained minus-one yard on two receptions and had another drop or two on other unsuccessful screen passes.

All-told, the four Steelers quarterbacks who participated in Saturday night's action--Roethlisberger, Bruce Gradkowski, Landry Jones and John Parker Wilson--connected on 19 of 33 pass attempts for 124 yards and six and a half yards per completion.

While the passing game certainly looked unimpressive, it would be completely absurd to make any real judgments following an opening preseason game.

Regardless of style-points, it was quite obvious Saturday night that the "tweak" to Roethlisberger's game (and that of the passing offense as a whole) is now here to stay.

After all, they don't call preseason games "dress rehearsals" for nothing.

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