For opposing teams, watching Ben Roethlisberger can be incredibly frustrating. He is considered a pocket passer, and yet his ability to escape pressure, break tackles, and make plays down the field is something nearly impossible to game plan against.
This unique problem of facing a big armed passer who is slippery and strong is what the Raiders face this Sunday. Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio explains what his team is up against with Big Ben.
"What happens is the play clock typically runs and the play's over after a certain amount of time," said Del Rio. "With Ben it just gets extended. So, a lot of the times when that play breaks down and he's shrugging people off, he's looking down field, he's got receivers with speed, all of a sudden they're breaking wide open, and you just don't want to see those. That's got to be an emphasis point. It's something that you have to stress and work on because it's not natural. It's not normal. The average play, 4-5 seconds and that's basically it. And with him, it can be extended and 8, 9, 10 seconds into the play, he can be running around back there looking to throw it down the field."
That mobility offers confidence to the Steelers' receivers that if they keep fighting to get open, their quarterback will find them. It also makes things very difficult for the defensive backs trying to chase them around in the secondary and keep from giving up a big play.
"It requires discipline in the secondary, it requires relentless pursuit out of our rush," Del Rio continued. "The thing about rushing him is when you get there, you've got to tackle him with grown man strength, because he won't go down with a little finger."
This season, the Raiders pass rush has been much improved. And they have a few guys very capable of chasing down, wrapping up, and bringing down the 6-5, 240-pound quarterback. It starts with Khalil Mack and Aldon Smith on the outside and moves inside to guys like Mario Edwards Jr and Denico Autry.
"This is a huge test for us - it's not going to be easy," Roethisberger said of facing the Raiders. "They're a very physical football team, very physical in the secondary. Their front seven like to get after the quarterback. This is a definite test for us and for our guys because it's a very good defense."
The past two weeks the Raiders have done a good job of containing the mobile Geno Smith and the big armed Philip Rivers in wins over the Jets and Chargers respectively. Roethlisberger brings together the best attributes of both of those quarterbacks and Ken Norton Jr knows the challenge his defense has ahead of it.
"The way he extends plays, you have to have great eyes, be really good with your feet, really good discipline and understand that this is the type of team that extends plays, so you can't get too mesmerized with watching how awesome ‘Big Ben' is. You have to cover your guy and I think that those are the things that we're working on," said Norton.
Discipline has been preached all season long. Also, Norton has preached keeping the plays in front of the defenders to not allow "explosives". That emphasis this season will help them to be better prepared heading into Heinz Field in Pittsburgh on Sunday.