PITTSBURGH -- Let this statistic register: 503 passing yards.
Anatomy of a Play
Believe it. Finally, after years of traveling by foot or by Bus (as in Jerome Bettis), the Steelers are part of the NFL's jet age.
The evidence: Roethlisberger's team-record 503 yards Sunday against the Green Bay Packers, the 10th-best passing day in NFL history.
"I think it's probably hard for people to really wrap their head and fingers around, but this offense is changing, this team is changing on offense," Roethlisberger said Wednesday. "It's not a run-first team anymore. That's not a bad thing, it really isn't. We got two 1,000-yard receivers, we'll have a 1,000-yard rusher, it's a pretty fun thing."
The stats sheet doesn't lie: Since becoming Pittsburgh's starting quarterback in 2004, Roethlisberger has produced five of the top seven passing-yardage games in team history and four of the top eight passing seasons.
Roethlisberger already has surpassed the Steelers' single-season passing record with two games remaining -- he has thrown for 3,849 yards -- and is closing in on the team's first 4,000-yard season. He has accounted for three of the six most productive passing-yardage games in team history this season, also throwing for 417 yards against the Cleveland Browns on Oct. 18 and 398 yards against the Kansas City Chiefs on Nov. 22.
Until Roethlisberger came along, the Steelers had just two 400-yard games since being founded in 1933, much less a 500-yard game.
Roethlisberger's five game-winning touchdown passes in the final two minutes of a game since 2004 are a league high.
"I've said it 1,000 times, the league evolves offensively and defensively and, offensively, it has evolved," Roethlisberger said. "You have to keep up with those teams, the Indianapolises, the Saints, teams like that because if you don't, you're going to get left behind."
The Steelers (7-7) finished with just 19 rushing attempts, the second time this season that they've had fewer than 20.
"We came out and threw the ball a bunch early, the first couple of plays were passes and I think it threw everybody for a loop," Roethlisberger said. "Everybody assumed we would come out and just run the ball and pound it."
For the first time in their history, the Steelers likely will have two 1,000-yard receivers (Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward), a 1,000-yard running back in Rashard Mendenhall and a 4,000-yard passer. In a sign of Pittsburgh's times, Mendenhall had more yards receiving (73) than rushing (38) against Green Bay.
"I don't know if that is a new trend," third-year Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said, referring to the supposed decline in running-based teams. "People have their personality, and they gear their personality toward how they want to play football. As long as it fits your people and there's a level of belief in it."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press