Now that Ben Roethlisberger has returned, the Steelers will take on a new look and maybe even an improvement over the record-breaking offense he directed last season.
That offense Roethlisberger will lead onto the field Oct. 17 has already taken on a different appearance and philosophy since he last played in a real game Jan. 3 in Miami to close out the 2009 season.
The starting line has changed by 60 percent, he has new receivers, and they have found something they nearly abandoned in 2009, a running game. The Steelers are tied for seventh in the NFL with an average of 133.5 yards rushing per game. They ranked 19th last season with an average of 112.1 yards per game.
Without Roethlisberger, the passing game ranks next-to-last in the NFL with an average of 136 yards per game. Last season, they ranked ninth with a 259.2-yard average.
"It's going to be more balanced," said Mike Wallace, who has moved into the starting split end job vacated by Santonio Holmes. "I'm pretty sure we're going to stay close to our game plan because it got us to 3-1 and could be 4-0. But at the same time, we have a unique guy in there. This isn't just any guy returning, this is one of the top five guys in the league."
Rashard Mendenhall, though, has rushed for 411 yards and a 4.6-yard average per carry even though defenses have aligned more to stop the run than the pass because of the absence of Roethlisberger. They more than likely will loosen up with Roethlisberger's presence in the pocket, and that could open things up more for Mendenhall.
"Yeah, I'm sure they're going to have to play things kind of differently," Mendenhall said. "With Ben coming back, it adds another dynamic to our offense."
Said Wallace: "I think it just opens up longer runs for him and more for our team as a whole. If Rashard can continue what he's been doing or even better, I think he can shoot up to one or two [in the league] with the defenses sitting back in coverage."