PITTSBURGH (AP) -Hines Ward, the leading receiver in Steelers history, isn't ready to say this is the best offense he's played on in his 10 NFL seasons.
Maybe he doesn't have to.
With the Steelers (7-2) positioning themselves for another high seeding in the playoffs, there are significant differences between this Mike Tomlin-coached team and any of the previous 15 teams coached by Bill Cowher.
Namely, they're running the ball as effectively as ever, but they're throwing it better than they have since Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw was at quarterback.
Tomlin hasn't exactly turned Ben Roethlisberger loose to throw it 40 times every game, but this Steelers offense could be developing into the most diverse and difficult to stop since the Bradshaw, Lynn Swann, John Stallworth and Franco Harris days.
While NFL statistics can be difficult to compare given the major differences in strength of schedule, the Steelers go into Sunday's game at the Jets (1-8) with the league's second-leading rusher in Willie Parker (873 yards) and the No. 2-rated quarterback in Roethlisberger, who has 22 touchdown passes and seven interceptions.
Only New England's Tom Brady (33 touchdowns, 4 interceptions) has more scoring passes and fewer interceptions, and only Brady has a higher QB rating, 131.8 to Roethlisberger's 110.2.
Ward remains one of the league's best middle-range, possession-type receivers despite missing several games with a knee injury. Santonio Holmes (6 touchdowns) provides a deep threat that often forces teams into double coverage.
Heath Miller (6 touchdowns) is one of the most productive tight ends in the league with dependable hands and the kind of size, at 6-foot-5, that creates difficult matchup problems.
``He is a Pro Bowl tight end,'' Roethlisberger said. ``He's got big hands and he's a big target. He's going to catch 99 balls out of 100.''
Against Cleveland last Sunday, the Browns were so focused on covering Ward and Holmes that Miller made five catches for 71 yards and the deciding touchdown as Pittsburgh won 31-28.
``Teams are starting to see if Ben can read coverages and are trying to take away the two wide receivers, but I don't know why they'd leave Heath one-on-one,'' Ward said. ``He's earned the respect around the league as one of the better tight ends.''
As Roethlisberger matures and develops into a legitimate team leader, the Steelers have upgraded themselves offensively without making any lineup changes except along the line. Sean Mahan replaced the retired Jeff Hartings at center and Willie Colon took over for Max Starks at right tackle.
Roethlisberger is back to playing the way he did when he went 13-0 as a rookie starter in 2004 and went on to win the Super Bowl a season later. In fact, he is better statistically than he was for those teams.
In their 75-season history, the Steelers have never had a quarterback throw for 30 touchdowns and a running back gain more than 1,000 yards in the same season, but they will likely accomplish that this year.
Bradshaw's 28 touchdown passes in 1978 are a team record, and Roethlisberger could wind up with close to 40. Parker is on pace to match the 1,494 yards he gained a season ago, the third most in club history.
``It's going to be real hard for defensive coordinators to key in on one guy because we've got a bunch of playmakers in our offense,'' Ward said. ``I think we're starting to play together and starting to feel comfortable. We're thinking, `Hey, my guys are going to do everything they can (to win).' And Ben's throwing it up there and trusting we'll come down with it.''
Of course, Ward realizes how one bad game or one expert defensive scheme can ruin a playoff run or a season. The Steelers learned that while losing in the AFC championship game during the 1994, 1997, 2001 and 2004 seasons.
``There were teams in the 1990s that I thought had great players, so how did we win a Super Bowl (in February 2006) and those teams didn't?'' Ward said. ``What I know is I like where we are right now. We're starting to jell, figuring out the whole scheme of things, how we want things to run. We've got a bunch of unselfish guys right now and we're not worrying about our stats.
``Are we playing our best football right now? No, but I like where we're headed.''

Recent NFL Discussions

NFL Draft Preview on Tue, Apr 2017 by Blade
Betting the 2017 NFL Draft on Mon, Apr 2017 by Blade
2017 Heisman Odds on Wed, Mar 2017 by Blade
College / NBA today on Sun, Mar 2017 by TtomBoBadly
SNOW on Tue, Mar 2017 by Michael Cash

Top NFL Public Bets

NFL Top Stories

Thumbnail Alabama NFL Draft Odds The Alabama Crimson Tide could have a lot of players taken in the first round of the NFL Draft next week. How many...
Thumbnail Odds Theory & Fantasy: Perfect Combo In America alone over 110 million people settled down to watch February’s Super Bowl and were rewarded by a game which saw many twists and turns along the way. Of...
Thumbnail Romo moving to CBS After a lot of discussion about where Tony Romo will be next season, it appears that he will be behind a broadcast booth.
Thumbnail Patriots remain SB52 Favorites With NFL free agency slowing down dramatically over the past week, here's a look at the most recent Super Bowl 52 odds to win.
Thumbnail The Next Atlanta Falcons Despite suffering one of the greatest collapses in sports history at Super Bowl LI, the Atlanta Falcons still managed to overcome significant odds to reach the NFL’s...

NFL Team Pages