Steelers Roethlisberger One Brutal Hit Away
Sep 11, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens linebacker Courtney Upshaw (91) is called for roughing the passer on Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) in the first quarter at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger plays a rather unique form of football that his a high yield high risk situation. He’s a master of scrambling out of the pocket, extending plays, and throwing the ball down field for a big play. You could even say it’s what he does best and no other can match that kind of effectiveness. Big Ben also takes a ton of big shots to the body because of this style.
But, that’s not where the concern lies. Most fans are willing to accept this high risk high reward scenario. It makes for some pretty damn exciting football, and usually equates into success for the Steelers in the win column. Where the concerns lie are the times when he’s not scrambling. When he’s planted in the pocket and doesn’t have time to see the rush coming or react to a blown assignment – that’s where the concern is and where Ben is most vulnerable.
The Steelers have always been proud owners of a poorly built offensive line. Some would even say that in some sick way the front office wears it like a badge of courage. The offensive lines shaky play and injury prone players appears to have been exacerbated once Todd Haley arrived as the new offensive coordinator and began the glacial shift of getting Ben to be more of a pocket passer. Ben has been on the receiving end of some bone shattering and head clanging shots from defensemen, and the majority of the occur when he’s planted in the pocket and a lineman blows a blocking assignment.
Last week against the Ravens, Roethlisberger took a huge shot from Courtney Upshaw early in the game. He’s still feeling the effects of that hit. It’s unclear if Ben sustained a diagnosable injury (like a broken rib) from that hit, but he’s not shy to mention that “It still hurts.”
Yup, and everyone is still talking about it. Marcus Gilbert blew his assignment on Upshaw, and Upshaw delivered a shot right to the chest… with his helmet. Ben took another hit later that evening that could have spelled disaster for the two-time Super Bowl champion. In the Trib’s Dejan Kovacevic’s tweet above, Ben talks about almost getting slammed in the knee, but he was able to lift his leg in time. Just in time. Lucky. Plain and simple.
Injury is always a risk in the NFL. But, when your offensive line stinks so bad that they become a liability to your $100 million quarterback, you can pretty much figure that your franchise QB is one big hit away from ending his career. And, no one knows when that will happen. Could be next week. Could be in the Conference Championships two years from now.
Former lineman and Titans head coach, Mike Munchak was hired to solve this problem. There’s been nigh an example of improved play from this core of big galoots. So who takes the fall when Ben takes the hit that ends his career? Munchy? Haley? Colbert? It’s well within the realm of reality to assemble an offensive line that can consistently protect a quarterback. Just look at the longstanding careers of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning (excuse me while I go throw up after having to use those two as examples). Until Roethlisberger can withstand a season without getting sacked more than 30 times, it will become the legacy of this Pittsburgh Steelers front office that they were either inept in assessing talent on the front lines, or refused to protect their largest asset. Either way the only person who will hurt the most from this will be Big Ben when he’s carted off the field for the last time.