Big Ben wants to pass more but isn't given the green light

As the Pittsburgh Steelers' coaches continue to study what changes are needed in the wake of their Super Bowl XLV loss -- because what else is there to do these days? -- Ben Roethlisberger seized a media opportunity to indirectly offer them some advice.

With the lockout preventing Big Ben and every other NFL player from having direct contact with coaches, he told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians would like to throw the ball more but hinted that orders from an unspecified higher level of team authority mandates that the Steelers make an honest effort to run.

Translation: "Let me attempt more passes, please!"

The exact source of the edict for the Steelers to maintain offensive balance is unclear. Does it come from coach Mike Tomlin? From ownership? From long-standing tradition with one of the most rabid fan bases in league history? From all of the above?

The suspicion here is that it is a combination of what Tomlin, who with a Super Bowl win and considerable success on his coaching resumé has plenty of clout, and Steelers ownership prefers. Tomlin is a defensive-oriented guy. He has a great defense. Controlling the clock is a good way to help make the defense even stronger. And there's no reason to believe his bosses would be anything but supportive of that philosophy.

Here's the thing, though: In a pass-driven league, why limit what a two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback can do? Roethlisberger is a great quarterback. He can make special things happen with his throwing arm that other quarterbacks can't. He is usually at his very best when he's moving and throwing, which is often.

So if the idea of mixing in a substantial number of runs is to keep opposing defenses honest and help reduce the pressure on Big Ben, forget about it. The pressure will be felt, because Big Ben will insist on waiting until the last possible moment to release the ball. And he'll usually make a big play.

This is what Roethlisberger does best. This is what the offense, which doesn't have the line or backfield talent for a consistently dominant rushing attack, does best.

Would it have made a difference in the Super Bowl? The fact is, in that game, Roethlisberger dropped back to pass 41 times, only one fewer than his Green Bay Packers counterpart, Aaron Rodgers. Roethlisberger's 25 completions were one more than Rodgers made. The difference was Rodgers connected for more yards (304 to 263), more touchdowns (three to two) and had no interceptions to Big Ben's two (one of which was returned for a touchdown).

Pittsburgh's running backs combined for 19 carries, eight more than Green Bay's James Starks, so no massive difference there, either.

Nevertheless, it's clearly an issue to monitor whenever the 2011 season begins.

It would be nice if Roethlisberger's message was received and will be acted upon ... but I'm not holding my breath.

Follow Vic Carucci on Twitter @viccarucci.

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