Offensive continuity key for Brady, Roethlisberger

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Offensive continuity key for Brady, Roethlisberger

FOXBORO Every year, there are jobs to be won and lost in training camp and to a lesser degree, during the season.

This holds true for both New England and Pittsburgh . . . except at one position.

That would be quarterback, arguably the most important position on the field.

Having stability at this critical position is one of the reasons the Patriots and Steelers are once again among the top teams in the NFL.

The Patriots are led by Tom Brady, in his 12th season having spent the past decade as New England's man under center.

"It's been very important for me to never really change offenses or learn new terminology," Brady said. "We've just built on it over the years - the things I learned 12 years ago when I came here. It's great for a quarterback to have that continuity with coaching and obviously the terminology of the plays. It's been a huge benefit."

There's no question the Steelers have benefited from having Ben Roethlisberger, in his eighth season, as the team's starting quarterback ever since he was a rookie.

"Continuity, particularly at that position is a big positive of course," said coach Mike Tomlin. "It expands the things that you're capable of doing."

However, there's a not-so-great side about having the same guy year after year.

"I also think that you have to guard against getting too comfortable sometimes," Tomlin said. "It also sometimes potentially breeds a lack of communication or assumptions and that can be dangerous. There are some positives and there are some negatives you have to weigh on a daily basis."

For Roethlisberger, the positives far outweigh the drawbacks.

"It's great," said Roethlisberger, who has been the starting quarterback on a pair of Super Bowl champion teams (2006 and 2009) in Pittsburgh. "I've always said that I felt bad for someone like San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, who I think in about five years had four offensive coordinators, or whatever the ridiculous number was.

"That's really hard for a quarterback. Any time that you can get familiarity with a coach, with a coordinator, with a play-caller, whoever it is, it definitely makes it a lot easier for you."

Steelers descending into disarray?

Steelers descending into disarray?

Less than 48 hours removed from openly wondering if the AFC Championship Game stage was “too big” for some of his young teammates, Ben Roethlisberger has decided to play the latter-day Hamlet/Brett Favre game.

Speaking on Pittsburgh’s 93.7 The Fan on Tuesday, Roethlisberger hinted at retirement.

“I’m going to take this offseason to evaluate, to consider all options,” Roethlisberger said. “To consider health, and family and things like that and just kind of take some time away to evaluate next season, if there’s going to be a next season. All those things. I think at this point in my career, at my age, that’s the prudent and smart thing to do every year.”

The soon-to-be-35-year-old Roethlisberger is a likely Hall of Famer who’s still arguably one of the top five quarterbacks in the NFL. But for whatever reason, he’s got an insatiable need for people to register concern about his status. Whether it be limping around the field, lamenting injuries or this, few quarterbacks in the league go through the same histrionics Roethlisberger does in order to get those, “Attaboy, Ben!” backslaps.

I remember being at Steelers training camp in 2009 in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, and having veteran Steelers writers roll their eyes as Roethlisberger started hopping around like he was on hot coals after a throw. The quarterback having an owie act was a daily tradition.

Roethlisberger’s also got a passive aggressive side in which he’ll deftly twist the knife on coaches and teammates but leave himself enough room for plausible deniability.

In addition to openly wondering if his young teammates took the AFC Championship Game seriously enough, Roethlisberger gave the “just running the plays as I’m told” answer when asked about the Steelers resistance to running a quarterback sneak when they were at the Patriots goal line before halftime. Roethlisberger could have taken offensive coordinator Todd Haley off the hook there – he’s lobbied for Haley to get a head coaching shot after the two had a bad relationship when Haley arrived. But he opted not to.

Similarly, earlier this year, Roethlisberger’s critiques of the way head coach Mike Tomlin was running the team were aired. 

So, this could be part of a Roethlisberger power play aimed at the Steelers bowing to his wishes.

That wasn’t the only tidbit from Pittsburgh that looked bad for the AFC finalists. Linebacker Bud Dupree said the Steelers were surprised by the Patriots using an up-tempo offense earlier in the game. 

Do they not have electricity or internet access in the Steelers facility? Up-tempo is a staple part of the Patriots offensive diet. You can see it on the television or the internet through your smart phone.

While there’s no doubt that defensive coordinator Keith Butler – and defensive minded head coach Tomlin – were aware and talked about the Patriots going no-huddle, the fact Dupree (and his teammates) were unable to recall the preparation or adequately fall into an emergency plan to address it does fall on the coaches.

Need more? It’s also being leaked out of the building that Antonio Brown cares too much about his statistics. He made clear last week how much he cares about advancing his personal brand at the expense of Tomlin and the team with his Facebook Live video. 

If there’s an upside for anyone in all this, it would have to be Joey Porter. Nobody’s even talking about his off-field fracas anymore.

As this season ably demonstrated, the Patriots have plum run out of authentic rivals in the AFC. That the team they just pulverized is steamrolling into an offseason of dysfunction and uncertainty isn't good if you like parity. But it's terrific if you couldn't care less.