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Steelers finding sweet spot between Haley's offense, letting Roethlisberger 'do his thing'

PITTSBURGH -- In one sequence, the ball is out of Ben Roethlisberger's hands in less than two seconds. On a later play, he's pump-faking three times with his signature windmill ball palm and standing in the pocket for five-plus seconds.

This contrast from Tuesday's Pittsburgh Steelers organized team activities session isn't lost on offensive guard David DeCastro, who understands the offense aims to find the balance between Todd Haley's quick passing game and the improvisation that makes Roethlisberger who he is.

The offense clicked in Haley's third year as coordinator, with Roethlisberger posting a career-high 4,952 yards. Roethlisberger wants the 2015 offense to look "exactly" like last season as far as quick-passing/deep-ball balance, he says. That doesn't mean he must conform on every play, either. Plays must be made.

"That's always part of it," said DeCastro about Roethlisberger making plays when things break down. "That's the one thing you can't really measure, that intangible, the ability to scramble and make plays. Sometimes you have to block a little longer and that's OK. That's our job."

No doubt, Roethlisberger has worked at releasing the ball quickly. That's what the offense asks of him, and Roethlisberger credits quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner for being "awesome" with staying on him about it.

The system is working. Roethlisberger was sacked 2.06 times per game last season, his lowest total since 2005 (1.9). Roethlisberger tied for 12th among NFL quarterbacks with 33 sacks in 2014.

Roethlisberger has always been willing to take the hits because he's durable (6-foot-5, 241 pounds) and he's willing to extend a play. He doesn't have to do that as much because Haley's offense is partly about yards after the catch and, as Roethlisberger points out, he's now 33.

"Guys are getting younger and faster, and I am not getting any faster," Roethlisberger said. "If I don't have to run around, I don't."

What won't change, DeCastro says, is Roethlisberger using instincts to make plays inside or (slightly) outside of the pocket.

DeCastro knows each year there will be a few plays where Roethlisberger "makes you look right" as a blocker.

"You get beat and he'll make you look good, step to the side and help you out with a block," DeCastro said. "That's a huge luxury. ...We just want to let Ben do his thing and keep him clean."

Call the Steelers' system rigid if you'd like, but when talking to players, Roethlisberger has a reasonable level of freedom. That's not likely to change. What helps is Roethlisberger and Haley seemed to have developed trust.

In case the complexion of a play changes, receiver Martavis Bryant, who had an impressive day Tuesday, always reminds himself to do two things pre-snap.

"Read the signals and keep my eyes on him the whole time," he said.