"It's like trying to tackle a lineman back there," Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers said of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. "He's like a fullback back there playing quarterback."
The Packers got the 6-foot-5, 241-pound Roethlisberger to the ground five times when the Super Bowl XLV foes met in Pittsburgh on Dec. 20, 2009. However, by Capers' estimation, the defense missed five other opportunities to sack Roethlisberger. The most glaring of Roethlisberger's great escapes came on the final drive, when he somehow eluded Cullen Jenkins and unloaded the ball for an incompletion. Had he been sacked, the clock would have run out and the Packers would have won. Instead, Roethlisberger fired the game-winning touchdown pass on the next play.
"We were watching the film of last year with Big Ben and we had five sacks, but, man, we could have had him down 10 times," defensive end Ryan Pickett said. "He's a good quarterback. And he breaks more tackles than any running back I've seen."
In some ways, Roethlisberger and the Packers' Aaron Rodgers are the same quarterback. Both have taken a bunch of sacks during their careers, with a willingness to sacrifice their bodies to buy that extra split-second to make something happen. While Rodgers does it with his feet, Roethlisberger does it by sheer size.
To that end, Capers put together a small montage of film clips of what not to do. Don't hit him too high. Don't fall for pump-fakes. Don't think a big hit without a proper wrap-up will get the job done.
"I think you've got to try to hit him between the knees and the chest," Capers said. "If you get up high on him, you probably aren't going to get him down."
"You gotta hit, you gotta wrap up and bring all your technique and all your weight with you, because he's definitely a big guy to bring down," linebacker Desmond Bishop said.
It's hardly impossible, though. He was sacked by Baltimore six times in the divisional round and five times by New England and, of all teams, Buffalo.
In 99 career games, Roethlisberger has been sacked 274 times, or 2.77 per game. From 2005 through 2009, he was sacked between 46 and 50 times, with a league-high 50 last season. This year, he was sacked 32 times, though that came in 12 games due to his season-starting suspension. In 47 starts, Rodgers has been sacked 115 times, or 2.45 per game.
It's hard to argue with the results, though. Rodgers finished fourth in the NFL with 54 completions of 20-plus yards Roethlisberger tied for sixth with 52 despite the four-game absence. Moreover, they're winners. Roethlisberger is playing to join some select company with three Super Bowl rings. Rodgers is the highest-rated passer in NFL history and has a conference championship under his belt as a third-year starter.
"Ben is just one of those guys that knows how to get it done," cornerback Charles Woodson said. "He's not going to always kill you with numbers and those sorts of things. But when their team needs a play, he being their guy, he can get it done. He makes a lot of guys look bad out there on the field during the course of the games with making guys miss who have free rushes, free shots at him. Or if they get to him, breaking tackles, and still being able to keep a play alive. And he's done that his whole career. And he has hardware to show for that, two championships. But to be a young quarterback and to have those accomplishments tells you a lot about what kind of player he is."
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.