Arians credits Roethlisberger's new throwing motion for his success
By Scott Brown
Thursday, January 13, 2011
A change in Ben Roethlisberger's throwing motion has helped the Steelers' quarterback deliver what offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said has been his "best season."
Roethlisberger, who will lead the Steelers against the Baltimore Ravens in an AFC divisional playoff game, eclipsed 3,000 yards passing for a fifth consecutive season. He also threw a career-low five interceptions, and his 97.0 passer rating during the regular season ranked fifth among NFL quarterbacks.
"As good as I've ever been around," Arians said Wednesday when asked about the level at which Roethlisberger is playing. "He's shortened his delivery. It was a minor thing, just to get it out of his hand faster. It's kind of like a golfer changing his stroke."
It has paid major dividends. Roethlisberger has thrown for 3,200 yards and 17 touchdowns while going 158 consecutive passes without an interception — a streak he will take into Saturday's 4:30 p.m. game at Heinz Field.
Roethlisberger embraced the change while serving a four-game suspension at the start of the regular season.
He and personal quarterbacks coach George Whitfield Jr. worked up to four days a week on his mechanics — specifically, Roethlisberger keeping the ball in a "loaded position" instead of letting his right arm drop before throwing a pass.
The added bonus of the new motion is that it has alleviated stress on Roethlisberger's right elbow.
A tender throwing elbow at the end of preseason practice is one reason why Roethlisberger said he tinkered with his mechanics for perhaps the first time since he entered the NFL.
"I don't know what it is, but my elbow doesn't seem to hurt as much," Roethlisberger said.
Arians said this is the best he has seen Roethlisberger play because the latter has been more careful with the football while not compromising his ability to make something happen after escaping a collapsing pocket.
Arians said Roethlisberger's best play this season resulted in an incomplete pass. That came late in the Steelers' 13-10 win in Baltimore on Dec. 5.
On first down, Roethlisberger wrested free of Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs and flipped the ball out of bounds with his left hand, avoiding a costly sack.
Two plays later, Roethlisberger threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to running back Isaac Redman, giving the Steelers the lead for good.
Roethlisberger played most of that game with a broken nose after getting hit in the face by Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata.
He said he plans to wear a protective visor against the Ravens on Saturday. Roethlisberger, however, added that he will play without one if there is significant precipitation because of visibility issues.
Roethlisberger's right foot is considerably stronger than the last time the Steelers played the Ravens. That meeting came a week after Roethlisberger had aggravated a foot injury in a 19-16 win at Buffalo.
Roethlisberger has had to play through the injury since late November.
He did get a chance to rest his foot last weekend during the Steelers' bye week.
"It's doing good," Roethlisberger said of his foot. "I had a little setback. It hurt a lot (Tuesday), who knows why, but (yesterday) it felt great again."
Scott Brown can be reached at email@example.com