The Pittsburgh Steelers officially announced Thursday that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will be starting Sunday against the Chargers.
Roethlisberger has been out the past three weeks with a sprained right shoulder and a dislocated rib. While the Bolts may not have known exactly who they were facing Sunday earlier this week, the announcement did not take them by surprise.
All week they have been practicing tackling techniques, specifically for a man the size of Big Ben.
Head coach Norv Turner said it has been a point of emphasis for them on mastering the technique.
“You work on it real hard in terms of understanding in terms of aiming points and leverage of the quarterback,” Turner said. “The thing that you have to do with him (Roethlisberger) is you have to get more than one person there. It’s hard for one guy to get it done, so everyone just has to be alive and hustling on every play.”
One of the guys who is to be alive and hustling on every play is safety Eric Weddle. Weddle, who is good personal friends with Roethlisberger, says he has mastered the way to make the big man fall.
“Tackle his arm,” Weddle said. “If you go around the waist or legs he will just shrug you off. He makes plays with his legs.”
Roethlisberger is a threat whether he is in the pocket, or scrambling out of it. Defensive coordinator John Pagano says that will be the true challenge for his defense.
“He’s so crafty,” Pagano said. “He’s such a proven quarterback in this league. The biggest challenge is really trying to get him down. He’s so elusive. Guys really just kind of fall off of him. Not only can Roethlisberger stand strong in the pocket and throw dimes down field, but when he is forced to scramble, he still throws accurate passes.”
His accuracy down field means not only will the guys in the front have to prepare to rush him, but the ones keeping up with the wide receivers down field need to be on their A-game.
Cornerback Quentin Jammer has seen his fair share of Roethlisberger throughout his years as a Bolt. He says he can tell when the play shifts from designed to improv, but the improv is no less dangerous or accurate.
“We have to stick with our receiver,” Jammer said. “He can get away from pressure and step out of tackles and make plays down the field. The receivers just start running, they get out of their routes and just go deep.”
So he echoes Weddle’s prescription for tackling Big Ben.
“You have to tackle his arms,” Jammer explained. “And make sure he can’t make a play with the ball because if you tackle his legs he can still he can still stand in there and throw the ball. If you tackle his arms there’s no way he can throw the ball.”
While the defense is conscious of the best technique to tackle Roethlisberger, Pagano simplifies the formula.
“We tell them just to tackle him and to get him on the ground,” Pagano said. “There’s no specific of high, low or middle with him. I would just like to see two guys wrap him up and hold him so he doesn’t get out of there."