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|01-31-2011, 07:37 AM||#1|
A Son of Martha
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Tackling Ben Roethlisberger? It's like tackling 'a polar bear'
Tackling Ben Roethlisberger? It's like tackling 'a polar bear'
By Jim Corbett, USA TODAY
Ben Roethlisberger is the 6-5, 241-pound equivalent of a linebacker playing quarterback — a rugged, sandlot playmaker whom Hall-of-Fame defensive end Howie Long calls "a bigger, stronger John Elway."
By Gene J. Puskar, AP
Like Elway, the two-time Super Bowl-winning Pittsburgh Steelers signal caller is typically at his best when needed most — with the game on the line, pocket crumbling, leading an against-the-odds, game-clinching drive.
"Ben Roethlisberger is about as entertaining a quarterback as there is to watch," Long, now a Fox analyst, said. "We used to play tackle football on a patch of grass on Rutherford Avenue in Charlestown, Mass., that was about 10 yards wide, and if you ran past the patch of grass, you could get hit by a car out on the freeway.
"Ben reminds me so much of that sandlot kid who is so much bigger and stronger than everybody else. … He carries so much on his shoulders. His ability to body slam a defensive end and duck under a safety blitz is amazing.
"He's one of those guys I'd pay to watch."
New York Jets defensive lineman Trevor Pryce, whose team lost to Roethlisberger and Co. in the AFC Championship Game, equated the challenge of stopping Roethlisberger to "trying to tackle a polar bear."
Roethlisberger is nearly the polar opposite of his Super Bowl XLV counterpart, Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers rhythm passer who gets the ball out quickly so his receivers can make big plays after the catch.
Rodgers spun out of four potential sacks in a 48-21 divisional demolition of the Atlanta Falcons, throwing darts while smoothly gliding to his right and left.
Roethlisberger? He shrugs off would-be tacklers as if slipping out of an overcoat.
Rodgers plays with a clock ticking inside his head required of a West Coast quarterback.
Roethlisberger heeds his own clock, using his rugged athleticism to buy time to hit receivers while he does his improvisational thing, defying defenders with pump fakes and unique, tackle-breaking strength.
"Aaron and Ben are pocket-driven passers, with the extra element of being able to create once the pocket is no longer their friend," said ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer, who also quarterbacked the Super Bowl XXXV champion Baltimore Ravens. "That's a very big difference from a scrambling quarterback that can also play from the pocket. … That guy is not nearly as dangerous as these two.
"These two are such weapons because they can play system football every single down. But when the system gets beat, when the pocket isn't their friend, when they have to go outside of system, they're equally, if not more dangerous.
"That is unique."
Roethlisberger's season had a unique beginning when NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended him the first four games for violating the league's personal conduct policy after the seventh-year quarterback was accused last March of sexual assault by a 20-year-old college student in Georgia. Roethlisberger wasn't charged after a police investigation.
Teammates say Roethlisberger, 28, has made a concerted effort to change as a person from the sometimes polarizing player ordered to undergo behavioral counseling by Goodell.
"We know about Ben's off-field problems that can hurt you with your football team," said Fox analyst and Hall-of-Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw, who led the Steelers to four Super Bowl titles in the 1970s.
"He seems to really have straightened himself out. That's good for him, number one. And it's great for the Steelers organization and their fans."
Even if some fans still find Roethlisberger difficult to root for?
"He's a superstar in our league," Bradshaw said. "And we need our superstars to be held accountable in the right way. Hopefully, that's what's happening now."
Former New York Giants Super Bowl-winning quarterback and current CBS analyst Phil Simms noted Roethlisberger's different demeanor.
"He's changed as a person," Simms said. "He's more at ease than I've ever seen him as a person. Especially with his nose broken and his foot hurting, I think being happy with himself has shown up in his play.
"He's probably as relaxed a quarterback as I've seen play."
Simms said because Roethlisberger is so dangerous outside the pocket "he never gets credit for how good a thrower of the football he is."
Roethlisberger drove Pittsburgh 78 yards in eight plays, hitting then-Steelers receiver Santonio Holmes for the game-winning, 6-yard touchdown by threading a ball between three Arizona Cardinals defensive backs in Super Bowl XLIII.
That earned Roethlisberger his second ring, and he's now one win from a third, a level only Bradshaw, Joe Montana, Troy Aikman and Tom Brady have reached. Yet when the game's elite quarterbacks are mentioned, Roethlisberger isn't always included in a group typically including Brady, Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Philip Rivers.
"Ben has a chip on his shoulder about that, and he's told me that drives him," said Roethlisberger's trainer, George Whitfield, who worked with the Steelers quarterback during his suspension.
"Ben told me, 'There's only one other current player that has more rings than I do (Brady).'
"Drew Brees won last year and it became 'The Big Three' of Brady, Manning and Brees. My thought was when does Ben get his invitation?"
Whitfield has a theory about why Roethlisberger's invite hasn't been mailed.
"There's a feeling among football purists that quarterback should only be played a certain way, and people get lost in that," he said.
"This guy plays, and he wins. If quarterbacks are Cadillacs, Ben's the Escalade.
"Ben's not your father's or your grandfather's Cadillac.
"He just happens to play quarterback being able to go off road."
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