PITTSBURGH (93-7 The FAN) — There will be a pretty unique look on the field Sunday when the Steelers visit Arizona, and it has nothing to do with schemes or strategies.
The only two offensive coordinators Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has ever played for will be on opposing sidelines. Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt, who led the Steelers offense from 2004-06, will be across from current coordinator Bruce Arians, who has managed the offense since 2007.
On a Wednesday teleconference, there were kind words to go around between Roethlisberger and Whisenhunt.
“He sees the field very well. He has a great feel for what defenses are trying to do,” Whisenhunt said in a Wednesday teleconference. “I don’t think there’s anybody better when the play breaks down. He knows how to extend it, find the open man and make the throw. You just see him do it time and time again.
“He’s a guy that can stand in the pocket, read the defense and make a great throw. If it’s covered, and the play does break down, it’s kind of like a double-whammy. He can move and make a play that way. He’s a tough guy to defend. He’s a tough guy to bring down. He’s a very good player, and he makes a lot of plays.”
The relationship between the two was well-documented as uneasy at times. Both failed to see eye-to-eye on different aspects of running the offense, as Whisenhunt was cautious to open things up too much with a young quarterback behind center.
“He was thrust into the starting role after Tommy Maddox was hurt in that second game (in 2004),” Whisenhunt said. “A lot of that was making sure he was ready. He had a long way to go from where he came from to being such a great player in the NFL.
“When you are a young player, you had to realize that we were trying to do things with him that we were doing with Tommy. That’s tough. I probably would have with a young player but he grew up quick. He made a lot of plays that year. He was a really good player for us.”
Roethlisbeger won his first Super Bowl with Whisenhunt (XL) and has appeared in two more with Arians, winning one (XLIII). He said that over time he has understood the method to Whisenhunt’s decisions.
“He was good,” Roethlisberger said, according to the Steelers official website. “It took me a while to realize it. Because I was a young quarterback he really handcuffed me and held those reins real tight. He felt that was the way to approach a young quarterback. There are no grudges. That is the way he wanted to do it.
“As a quarterback, you want to have opportunities to do no huddle stuff and change plays and do things. If he didn’t feel I was ready for it or his system was the way to go, that was his prerogative. Who knows, maybe I would have liked to do some stuff. I am appreciative of the way he coached me. He was a good coach.”