On the Steelers: Change in delivery pays off for Roethlisberger
Thursday, January 13, 2011
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has threw 17 touchdown passes this season.
That four-game suspension NFL commissioner Roger Goodell delivered to Ben Roethlisberger to start the season might have had another effect that few could have anticipated. It helped to improve his throwing motion.
Roethlisberger took the month he could not appear at the Steelers' facility to work with quarterbacks coach George Whitfield Jr., and he tinkered with his delivery.
"He worked extremely hard when he was off on his accuracy and changed his motion a little bit, and it's paid off for him all season," said Bruce Arians, the Steelers' offensive coordinator.
"He shortened his delivery a little bit and worked extremely hard with George Whitfield in that time, and George helped him out fundamentally. It was kind of like a golfer changing his stroke, it was minor but he really gets it out faster."
A quicker release has been cited for Roethlisberger's career-low five interceptions and his 32 sacks, which, while not necessarily low over 12 games, represents an improvement over his previous four seasons.
Roethlisberger has not thrown an interception in his past 158 passes, or since the last time the Steelers played Baltimore, Dec. 5.
The quarterback explained that the delivery change was simple and one many quarterbacks use -- instead of holding the ball in two hands chest-high, he now brings it up closer to his chin, which results in less movement and a shorter windup.
"Holding the ball higher," Roethlisberger said, "helps me what [Whitfield] calls 'keeping it loaded' rather than keeping it down low where I used to hold it and then you have to wind up ... you get it out quicker."
Whitfield, who runs a private quarterback-training firm in San Diego, suggested the change to Roethlisberger when they began working together in September. He had used the same motion since high school, and no one suggested he change, likely because he had been so successful.
"I had heard of it before but I never did it because I didn't think it mattered," Roethlisberger said. "I tried it because I had a bad elbow problem, and it solved that problem, too. I don't know what it is, but my elbow doesn't seem to hurt as much."
Roethlisberger also learned to drive off his right leg more, although it became more difficult when his foot was broken.
"I just worked on being able to drive with that leg, pushing off a lot better. That's why the foot is such a big deal and, when it hurts, you can't drive into it well."
Roethlisberger said he had "a little setback" with his right foot Tuesday when it hurt him, but Wednesday it "felt great again.'' He said he will continue to wear his protective shoe and also wear the plexiglass visor to protect his broken nose long as he can see through the snow.
Through the suspension, his broken foot, his broken nose and the loss of both starting tackles, Roethlisberger has had what Arians said, "I think this is his best year."
Some style changes
No one will confuse the style of offensive play by the Steelers and Ravens with those in, say, Indianapolis and New England. But they also are not to be confused with the styles of the Steelers and Ravens of just two years back, either, according to safety Ryan Clark.
"I think both teams have kind of changed with the personnel that they have," Clark said. "I remember the '08 [AFC championship] game was really physical because that's when they were downhill. You had [Le'Ron] McClain running the ball and things like that. But now you have Joe Flacco and Ray Rice, they're throwing screens, so the games are a little different now.
"They have three top-quality receivers who have been to Pro Bowls. We have Mike [Wallace] and Ben, so the games are not the same. It's a little more finesse."
Foote accepts, likes situation
Larry Foote anticipated returning to the playoffs when he returned to the Steelers after one season with the Detroit Lions, but he did not plan to play so little.
A starting inside linebacker for five seasons with the Steelers and then one more in Detroit in 2009, Foote did not start a game in 2010 because both Lawrence Timmons and James Farrior stayed healthy and did not miss a game.
And that was OK by Foote.
"They told me coming in it was more long-term. Would I wish Farrior's play dropped off and he'd be gone? No. I wish I had more playing time, but those guys are playing too good."
As a sub for both, Foote had 23 solo tackles, 27 total and one sack. After last season when he became a free agent, he visited Washington and Arizona and also had interest from the New York Giants before he signed a three-year contract with the Steelers.
"I knew coming back that our chance of going to the playoffs was high."
High praise for Suisham
Coach Mike Tomlin said he has been delighted with not only the performance of kicker Shaun Suisham but also mentioned his positive "attitude" since he joined the Steelers for their game against Oakland Nov. 21.
Suisham made 14 of his 15 field-goal tries.
The Steelers signed him after cutting nine-year veteran Jeff Reed after he missed seven kicks in the first nine games and then complained about the Heinz Field surface.
"He's banged just about every kick we sent him out there to hit, and it starts there," Tomlin said of Suisham. "But not only that, he has a can-do attitude. He is a pleasant teammate. He has endeared himself to his teammates because of it. He has been a good addition to us."
For more on the Steelers, read the blog, Ed Bouchette On the Steelers at www.post-gazette.com/plus
. Ed Bouchette can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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