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Old 12-19-2008, 12:25 PM   #1
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Default Steelers' defense puts Big Ben in position to win

Steelers' defense puts Big Ben in position to win
December 19, 2008

Greg Cosell

The best unit in the NFL is the Pittsburgh Steelers' defense. It includes a base 3-4 front that smothers the run game in normal and distance situations. Then, in long yardage, it morphs into a 2-4-5 personnel package that often bewilders both pass protection schemes and quarterbacks.

Dick LeBeau is the NFL's best defensive coordinator when it comes to pressuring quarterbacks without compromising coverage. That's the underlying foundation of LeBeau's blitz concepts -- attack the quarterback while playing safe but sophisticated zone coverage schemes to avoid giving up big plays. I can't tell you how many times I have seen the Steelers rush only four against six- and seven-man protections, yet one of those four rushers gets in clean, with no one accounting for him.

It's the fastest, most explosive group in the league, capable of breaking down offenses with both scheme and individual dominance. An example: James Harrison beating Patriots left tackle Matt Light on consecutive second-half possessions three weeks ago, each time sacking Matt Cassel and forcing a fumble.

The bottom line: The Steelers have allowed the fewest points in the NFL, less than 14 per game. The beneficiary of this dominant defense is Ben Roethlisberger, one of the most frustrating quarterbacks to evaluate on film. His inconsistency drives me crazy, particularly because his physical gifts are so special. He's a power thrower with a strong arm who can expand the field vertically, but he can also deliver with touch in the shorter-to-intermediate areas.

I really struggle with Roethlisberger's maddening tendency to play sandlot football. After five years in the NFL, he still is not comfortable in the pocket. When the coverage dictates the throw before the snap, Roethlisberger can look very good, delivering with rhythm, timing and accuracy. When the throw is not evident right away, his predisposition is to rely purely on instincts, not a refined sense of reading progressions.

And that leads to a problem I see with Roethlisberger when I study him. He struggles with blitz recognition before the snap. Every blitz, no matter how well disguised, has a pre-snap indicator, and Roethlisberger too often fails to identify those keys.

As a result, Roethlisberger does not handle pressure well, both mentally and physically. He doesn't recognize it; therefore, he doesn't react to it with controlled, decisive responses. He's apt to be a little frantic and hyperactive. He's reactive rather than proactive, and that just reinforces his sandlot tendencies.

However, there are times Roethlisberger executes efficiently against pressure. Last week, in the big road win over the Ravens, he took another step in his development. On the second play of the game-winning drive in the fourth quarter, Baltimore blitzed. Roethlisberger read it, and he threw a 13-yard pass to Hines Ward. The Ravens then backed off, often rushing only three and playing soft zone coverages. It was pitch and catch for Big Ben on a beautifully orchestrated, 12-play touchdown drive.

Yet, when I analyze Roethlisberger's overall body of work, I do not see a patient pocket quarterback. He often moves when he does not need to, when he's not being pressured. He has a very quick clock in his head, with a penchant for hurrying himself and playing a little fast and undisciplined.

But there are instances when that schoolyard inclination produces big plays at critical moments. Remember the Sunday night game against Jacksonville in early October? An 18-yard pass to Ward on the game-winning touchdown drive was classic Roethlisberger: He was frenetic in his drop, never really setting his feet. Then he left the pocket for no reason and stepped up into pressure. Finally, he used his incredible strength and downfield vision to make an unbelievable throw with a defender hanging off him. One play encapsulated the bad and the good of Big Ben.

Better than any other quarterback, Roethlisberger maintains downfield clarity while he's on the move. Most quarterbacks, when they leave the pocket, do not have the same vision as they do when they are standing in a secure cradle. On the run, they tend to throw the ball short, usually within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. Not Roethlisberger. He makes outstanding intermediate and deep throws when he leaves the pocket.

Roethlisberger makes so many good plays outside the offensive framework that you tend to lose sight of how many plays he leaves on the field. Misreads of coverages before the snap, leaving the pocket when there's no pressure, breaking down the rhythm and continuity of the passing game -- it's a constant balancing act with one of the most gifted quarterbacks in the league.

Think of the victory over the Patriots at the end of November. Roethlisberger played an outstanding game. He was poised, disciplined and decisive. He threw with timing, anticipation and accuracy. It was a four-quarter performance, not a series of individual snapshots. I would like to see more complete games like that.

Roethlisberger remains an instinctive, intuitive playmaker much more than a refined, precision passer who dissects defenses with consistent execution. He's a quarterback capable of spectacular individual moments. But part of the Big Ben package is erratic, variable play that can be exasperating to watch.

Improvisation, by definition, is unpredictable and random, and therefore risky. It is not always a positive. Yet, there are very few times Roethlisberger's uneven play hurts the Steelers on the scoreboard, because their defense keeps every game close enough that Roethlisberger's numerous flashes of brilliance often make a difference.

Greg Cosell of NFL Films analyzes coaching tape and is executive producer of State Farm NFL Matchup. He is a frequent contributor to Sporting News.

http://www.sportingnews.com/yourturn...c.php?t=498599

And there you have it, folks. All the reasons to love and hate Big Ben. All rolled into one big winning package. Not perfect, our Ben. But a keeper.
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"We're not going to turn our backs on him," Ward said. "We're going to treat him like our brother. We're going to accept him back and be very supportive of him and help him get through this. In this locker room, he's still our quarterback."
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Old 12-19-2008, 01:20 PM   #2
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Default Re: Steelers' defense puts Big Ben in position to win

Good, Bad ,or indifferent I'll take Ben just the way he is.
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Old 12-19-2008, 02:04 PM   #3
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Default Re: Steelers' defense puts Big Ben in position to win

Exasperating, undisciplined equals the most wins by a QB in a five year span.
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Old 12-19-2008, 02:51 PM   #4
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Default Re: Steelers' defense puts Big Ben in position to win

Sitting there reading what the guy wrote I am thinking, "yeah that's Ben" but then I stop and think, "the guy finds ways to help the team win".
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Old 12-19-2008, 02:55 PM   #5
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Default Re: Steelers' defense puts Big Ben in position to win

Best article I've read on Ben in awhile - the writer clearly knows what he's talking about and cites examples with objectivity. I get so irritated when I read other writers' and fans' regurge about Ben - the bullshit just gets old. I mean, who would you rather have under center? A certain element of fandom demands perfection, and get nitpicky and pissed off when they don't find it. Every qb has their maddening quirks -I'll take Ben's sandlot tendencies and physical gifts over any other qb in this league. He's a dynamic player who can lead his team to victory from the very edge of defeat. We all knew he was a rare gem when he began playing in his rookie year - remember the excitement?!

As a fan, I'm only worried about whether or not we W I N! Style points aren't given out for pretty losses - I'll take an ugly win over that all day long.

/Rant off!

GO, STEELERS!!
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Old 12-19-2008, 02:55 PM   #6
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Default Re: Steelers' defense puts Big Ben in position to win

"Steelers' defense puts Big Ben in position to win"

You can put him in as much 'position' as you want- he still wins the game when called upon.
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Old 12-19-2008, 02:56 PM   #7
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Default Re: Steelers' defense puts Big Ben in position to win

Ben is the perfect Steelers quarterback. He buys into the mentality and is tough as nails.
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Old 12-19-2008, 04:50 PM   #8
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Default Re: Steelers' defense puts Big Ben in position to win

so ben is no peyton manning, who cares?

Yeah our defense wins games, and all we ask of ben is to make one or two big plays, and no mistakes


its a flawless system.



Ive got a feeeeeeeeelin, Pittsburgh's goin to the superbowl
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Old 12-19-2008, 05:11 PM   #9
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Default Re: Steelers' defense puts Big Ben in position to win

Quote:
Originally Posted by 43Hitman View Post
Good, Bad ,or indifferent I'll take Ben just the way he is.
The Steelers Nation needs more fans like you. Too many people only like the players when they are doing good and then abandon all hope when they are in a slump. Ben, Fast Willie, and Holmes have all received heat this season, even though they contribute to a team that is 11-3 and CLINCHED the AFC North and have a first round bye in the PLAYOFFS! C'mon people, believe in the team.
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Old 12-19-2008, 05:31 PM   #10
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Default Re: Steelers' defense puts Big Ben in position to win

as long as they win I don't care how it gets done. You can't have your cake and eat it too
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