View Full Version : Jets' biggest worry sounds like Big Ben

01-22-2011, 12:03 AM
Jets' biggest worry sounds like Big Ben
Defenders rave about his toughness, elusiveness in pocket
Saturday, January 22, 2011
By Dejan Kovacevic, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- For a team that already took down Peyton Manning and Tom Brady -- confidently and convincingly, no less -- the New York Jets sure sound worried about Ben Roethlisberger.

Not so much because of the passing prowess of the Steelers' quarterback, but, rather, his mix of size and elusiveness.

"He's very dangerous, one of the best in the game," New York defensive end Shaun Ellis said. "It's huge that our cover guys stay back, stay on their guys, and for us to rush him. And, once you get there, you've got to attack him. You've got to go for the ball. He's not scared to take a hit. You see him have three, four guys on him and still get the ball downfield."

So, sounds like blitzing is in order, right?

The more bodies, the merrier.

Maybe not.

The Jets' defensive scheme does not have a dominant sack artist in the mold of Baltimore's Terrell Suggs -- the team leader in the regular season was linebacker Bryan Thomas with six -- which is one reason that coach Rex Ryan and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, who call the defensive alignments together, still generally prefer the blitz. The strength is a terrific secondary led by brilliant cornerback Darrelle Revis that allows the staff to entrust them with one-on-one matchups. As a result, the defensive schemes can fluctuate dramatically from week to week.

For this opponent, New York's clear focus -- and, unmistakably, Topic A all week at the team's training facility -- is getting to Roethlisberger and cutting off any late improvisation. But it might not come through a blitz. The Jets blitzed the Steelers only 18 times, about a third of the time in their 22-17 victory Dec. 19 at Heinz Field.

It is hard to say if cutting the blitzes worked: Roethlisberger completed 23 of 44 passes for 264 yards and a touchdown. He was not intercepted and he was sacked three times, twice by blitzing cornerback Drew Coleman, another by Thomas. And it is a must to note that the Steelers were without tight end Heath Miller that day, and Miller's replacement, Matt Spaeth, dropped what would have been the winning touchdown as time elapsed.

Bottom line for the Jets, then, is to ensure that Roethlisberger is stopped once they arrive.

"They've got an outstanding set offense, but they do as good a job as anybody in this league when it breaks down," Ryan said. "First off, Roethlisberger being able to just knock people around physically and not go down, he keep plays alive with his athleticism and strength. But the receivers do a great job."

He specifically cited Hines Ward in short yardage and called Mike Wallace "maybe the best vertical receiver in the game right now."

"They run their route, and then they see Big Ben scrambling and get open," Ryan said. "They'll come back to the ball like most people do, but then they stay active. It's not just the set thing where, if you're high, you come back. They keep going. And Ben is poised, and he makes throws downfield."

Thus, the challenge would figure to be greatest for the Jets' front seven.

"You want to contain Ben in the pocket," Ellis said. "But the key, again, is that you grab him once you're there. A lot of guys make mistakes and run right at him. He sheds them off."

"He's tough to get down, tough to stop even when you're there," another defensive end, Trevor Pryce said. "But, hey, he should be a physical quarterback. He's so big he'd be a defensive end if he wasn't a QB."

"The respect we have for Ben is that we don't look at him as a diva quarterback. We look at him as a football player," said linebacker Bart Scott, who faced Roethlisberger regularly as a member of the Baltimore Ravens. "In this league, especially now, quarterbacks are treated pretty much like it's flag football. But he's one that's willing to take the hits and look down the barrel of a gun for his team."

The Jets' secondary will have to be involved, too. Even the best cover men can lose their receivers if Roethlisberger gets extensive time.

"We all know in here that Ben can extend plays for 10 to 15 seconds because he can scramble," Revis said. "When we played him the first time, the coaching staff just said, 'Make sure we plaster those guys. Make sure when the plays are extended, just find your guy and plaster him and get on him as tight as you can, because Ben extends plays very well.' "

NOTES -- Ellis did not practice Friday because of a knee injury, but Ryan said Ellis will play Sunday. ... New York's only other questionable players, linebacker Jason Taylor and receiver/kick returner Brad Smith, participated in the full practice. ... Ryan, in a clear reference to Steelers safety Ryan Clark's quote earlier this week about the franchise's six Super Bowl trophies, said Friday: "They've had six Super Bowl trophies. If they want to put them on the field, we will play them, too. I can assure you we're going to play well, and I can assure you that team is going to get everything we have." ... The Steelers' Maurkice Pouncey recently cited the Jets' Nick Mangold as his role model among NFL centers, and Mangold returned the praise: "You can see he's got great physical attributes, and you can see that he's the guy making the calls, making things happen. I remember what it was like when I was a rookie, and it was tough. He's done fantastic."
Dejan Kovacevic: dkovacevic@post-gazette.com. Read more at "DK's Pittsburgh Sports Blog" on www.post-gazette.com/plus.

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