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01-25-2011, 07:08 AM
Harris: Unorthodox style suits Roethlisberger
By John Harris
Tuesday, January 25, 2011

This is the era of famous, big-arm quarterbacks in the NFL, the era of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.

If a team doesn't have a rocket launcher delivering tight spirals from the pocket, it doesn't have a chance to win a Super Bowl.


Someone forgot to deliver the memo to Ben Roethlisberger.

The problem with the Steelers in general, and Roethlisberger in particular, is that while they're not always pretty in execution, they produce flawless results.

"That's us," Roethlisberger said. "It's not always pretty, but somehow we find a way to get it done."

There are only a few quarterbacks who do what Roethlisberger does, and only one of them is playing in Super Bowl XLV. With a win over Green Bay on Feb. 6 at Cowboys Stadium, Big Ben would become the only active quarterback other than Brady to win three Super Bowls.

"Just thanking the Lord," Roethlisberger said following the Steelers' 24-19 win over the Jets. "We've been through a lot as a team and personally."

Other than Michael Vick, no player in the NFL went through a more scrutinized season than Roethlisberger.

What's the pressure of playing in another Super Bowl after what Roethlisberger's been through?

He meant as much as Brady meant to New England, the Super Bowl favorite at the beginning of the postseason. Roethlisberger has an unorthodox playing style, but one that should be embraced along with Brady's and Manning's more conventional methods.

In fact, Roethlisberger is elevating the quarterback position to a new level.

When Brady and Manning drop back to pass, one of several things can happen. They can complete the pass, throw the ball away, throw an interception or take a sack.

Roethlisberger adds another dimension. Like Brady and Manning, he'll stand there and hold the ball, knowing he's about to take a lick. But when the pressure comes, instead of throwing the ball away or going down, he spins, pivots and double-times his way out of trouble -- creating room enough to locate an open receiver or tuck the ball away and run.

Defense is primarily responsible for the Steelers winning two Super Bowls since 2005. Rare quarterbacks such as Roethlisberger kept those Super Bowls from being lost.

No, Roethlisberger doesn't throw a tight, pretty spiral like Brady and Manning. No, he isn't protected by referees like his two more popular quarterback peers.

Roethlisberger's importance to the Steelers can't be defined by mere statistics, or his Q score.

Roethlisberger was 10 of 19 for 133 yards and two interceptions in the AFC Championship Game against the New York Jets. His passer rating was less than 40.

And, yet, the Steelers couldn't have won without him.

The first time the Steelers had the ball, Roethlisberger methodically drove the offense downfield for a touchdown -- 16 plays, 66 yards, 9:06 off the clock.

"It took the whole quarter. That's huge," Roethlisberger said.

Seven plays into the drive, Roethlisberger sustained a painful thigh bruise. Hobbled, he remained on the field -- Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler should take note. Six plays later, Roethlisberger scrambled into the thick of the defense for exactly 12 yards on third-and-12.

It was the type of play that defines a leader who made it all the way back from a traumatic offseason that tested his character and the Steelers' patience. Roethlisberger scrambled several more times, scoring on a 2-yard run in the second quarter, and he kept the chains and the clock moving with a pair of third-down conversions in the third quarter.

The true test of Roethlisberger's value to the Steelers occurred late in the game. The offense failed to score in the second half, but the coaching staff sent a message that it trusted their franchise quarterback to close the deal.

Instead of trying to run out the clock with the running game, Roethlisberger completed passes to tight end Heath Miller and rookie wide receiver Antonio Brown for first downs. On the latter pass, Roethlisberger rolled outside to evade pressure and waited for Brown to clear the defense before delivering a low pass that couldn't be intercepted.

"I want the ball in my hands to try and make a play late," Roethlisberger said. "Really, my job is only a small part of what we have to do. The line has to block. I just have to throw the ball. Those guys catch it."

It helps when the quarterback delivering those clutch passes has two Super Bowls on his resume and is driven to win a third.

John Harris can be reached at jharris@tribweb.com or 412-481-5432.

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