One-Step Drop?

Ben Roethlisberger's knee is fine. For now. But the best tandem of pass-rushers he can face outside of practice will test his mettle, and his blockers, Sunday night.

PITTSBURGH – Ben Roethlisberger was asked if he could imagine spending 17 years in the league, like his counterpart this Sunday night against the Indianapolis Colts, Kerry Collins.

"Probably not," said Roethlisberger.

Did Roethlisberger even think he was going to play next week after taking that ugly blow to the knee from defensive end Raheem Brock last Sunday?

"No," Roethlisberger said. He paused and then said again, "No. It was very scary. Very scary."

Roethlisberger's all right. He said his knee was just sore and that "it's doing a lot better."

But the opposing pass-rushers this Sunday night will be a lot better, too. Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis have more sacks in the last three-plus years – 68 – than any tandem in the NFL not named James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley (74).

And Freeney and Mathis play particularly well at their home track. Where it's noisy. Where the Colts are hungry for a win. In the glare of the Sunday night cameras. Against Jonathan Scott and Marcus Gilbert.

"Disrupt, speed, spin moves," was Roethlisberger's stream of consciousness.

"They're built for that turf, and the crowd noise. When you have to use silent counts and stuff like that, they can get off the ball. They're basically like linebackers who are big and strong. They're so fast. It's such a huge challenge for these guys this week."

Those guys are Scott and Gilbert. It brought up the question of whether Roethlisberger is practicing his one-step pass drops.

"One-step drops?" he repeated with a chuckle. "Nah, I have faith in our tackles, and our tight ends, whoever's on them. Those ends are going to win some but we're going to win some, too. It comes down to having faith in those guys, in J Scott and in Marcus, that they're going to get it done."

Faith hasn't helped Roethlisberger so far. He's been sacked six times in two games and is lucky to still be standing after the shot from Brock.

Right tackle had been in fine hands until Willie Colon went down, but for now it's being handled by the rookie second-round pick. Gilbert spent most of his first NFL start doing a serviceable job last Sunday, even when he wasn't being helped by tight ends. But it took only one slip on a veteran's spin move to nearly end the franchise QB's season.

But Gilbert doesn't have the hardest assignment this Sunday. Mathis might be a three-time Pro Bowler with 75 career sacks, but Freeney, the pass rusher on the other side of the Indianapolis Colts' defensive line, is a six-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro with 95 career sacks and 45 forced fumbles. He came out of Syracuse in 2002 weighing 266 and running 4.48 and he hasn't changed much of either number in becoming a complete player.

"If you focus on just the spin move then you've got to worry about the bull rush," said Scott, the Steelers' left tackle. "If you just worry about the bull rush then you've got to worry about the edge pressure. If you worry about the edge pressure, you've got to worry about him collapsing your outside hand.

"They're good pass-rushers. The positive thing about it is we have ends of that caliber on our team that we can practice against and get better. It eases anxiety for one or two things: getting ready for the game and just knowing what to expect."

Roethlisberger's anxiety is another matter.

NOTES – James Farrior, Aaron Smith and Hines Ward were given Wednesday off. DE Brett Keisel (knee) had to miss practice. Limited in practice were RB Jonathan Dwyer (shoulder) and C Maurkice Pouncey (hamstring).


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