Roethlisberger Stakes Claim For Fantasy Respect

Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial

Saturday, September 15, 2007
By Paul Eide
Steelers Fever Columnist


Ben Roethlisberger's four passing touchdowns versus the Cleveland Browns tied for the highest total of any QB during week one and was a welcome sight after a preseason in which the offense struggled. The four TDs were also a single game career high for "Big Ben" and eased any doubts about his ability to ascertain new offensive coordinator Bruce Arians system.

Ben RoethlisbergerPerhaps the most impressive number on the day was zero -- the amount of interceptions Roethlisberger threw after posting a league high 23 during the 2006 campaign. And though he only threw for 161 yards, the game was essentially over at halftime with the Steelers focusing more on running the ball from that point on.

So does this mean what would've been considered unthinkable a year ago - that Roethlisberger can be considered a legit #1 fantasy QB? Maybe it's a bit premature, but here are four reasons why Roethlisberger's week one performance is not just a fluke against a very poor Browns secondary, but a trend that could continue for the duration of the season:

1. The Shotgun/Four Wide Receiver Formations
Harkening back to his days at the University of Miami Ohio, Roethlisberger looked extremely comfortable in the shotgun formation last week, making good, quick decisions. In addition, the use of multiple wide receiver sets even when not using the shotgun will open things up even further. "What Bruce (Arians) is doing is going to help the receivers like Cedrick and Santonio," Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said after the game. "You're getting it out on time, quickly. We're still going to look for it deep, but the idea is to let those guys do some more with the ball on their own and that suits their talents very well."

2. He's Calling His Own Plays
Perhaps the biggest difference between former OC Ken Whisenhunt and Arians is that Roethlisberger can call his own plays. By being allowed to use his creativity and feel for the game more than ever before, the fourth year QB spends more time operating out of his comfort zone performing in a less regimented manner. "That's the good thing about Bruce. We're able to communicate with each other and not call plays that we don't feel comfortable with," said Roethlisberger. "Whiz and I got along great, but we work together a lot more than Whiz and I did, which I think probably helps. (Arians) has asked me about certain things, what I feel comfortable with, what I don't feel comfortable with, what we want to call, what we don't want to call. If I have an idea, I throw it out to him, and he lets me know if he likes it."

3. Santonio Holmes
Holmes 40 yard TD grab versus the Browns gave the Steelers just what they were hoping for and gives Roethlisberger something all productive fantasy QB's have; A deep threat. After a great preseason, Holmes didn't disappoint by utilizing the added dimension his speed gives the offense on the Steelers longest play of the day, and on an 11 yard reverse later in the game. His presence alone legitimizes the deep passing game, opens up the middle of the field for other receivers to work underneath, opens up the running game and makes the opposing defense keep one eye on him at all times. This makes the field a whole lot bigger for Roethlisberger and creates options he didn't have last year.

4. The Running Game
Many fans were wary at the idea of a more pass happy Steelers offense, thinking that it would take away from what makes the Steelers, The Steelers; the running game. But after one week it was apparent that the running game will not be forgotten about anytime soon. And sure, being up 31-7 heading into the fourth quarter no doubt placed increased emphasis on running out the clock, but the impressive thing was that the Steelers averaged almost five yards per carry (4.9) on 42 attempts and were productive in this regard no matter who was carrying the ball. A balanced offense is any successful fantasy quarterback's best friend because it keeps opposing defenses off balance.

In week two the Steelers face a Buffalo Bills defense that gave up 304 passing yards to Denver quarterback Jay Cutler in their previous game. If Roethlisberger can perform at the same level against the Bills at Heinz Field in the home opener, it will become impossible for fantasy players to view him as a bye week replacement only.