Tag:Ben Roethlisberger
Posted on: February 6, 2011 5:33 pm

Why Charlie Batch was so important this year

C. Batch played well for Pittsburgh early in the season (US Presswire). Posted by Josh Katzowitz

DALLAS – When the Steelers Media Day officially opened last Tuesday, backup QB Charlie Batch switched on his video camera and began shooting the enormous Jerry-Tron that hangs like an oversized airplane over the Cowboys Stadium turf.

Nobody bothered him for a few minutes. He was by himself, making memories with his camera. He was, at least until I approached, the forgotten man.

Before the rebirth of Ben Roethlisberger and before the Steelers won seven of eight games heading into today’s Super Bowl, there was Batch and Dennis Dixon helping keep the team together while Roethlisberger served his four-game suspension.

Remember how we said the Steelers would be lucky to break even and go 2-2 in the season’s first four games vs. the Falcons, Titans, Buccaneers and Ravens? Probably, we said, they’d go 1-3 before Roethlisberger returned.

Instead, Dixon passed for 236 yards, and the Pittsburgh held Atlanta to nine points in the season-opener, and after Dixon hurt his knee, Batch took over the starting spot. Against Tampa Bay, he threw for 186 yards and three touchdowns (with two interceptions) to lead the Steelers to a 38-13 win against what turned out to be a pretty good Buccaneers squad.

The Steelers lost to the Ravens in Week 4, but the fact Pittsburgh went 3-1 during that stretch and how much that ultimately helped the Steelers on their eventual Super Bowl run is a forgotten storyline this week. And Batch is the forgotten man.

“There wasn’t anybody outside our building who thought we could do that,” Batch said. “People expected us to go 1-3 or 0-4 or whatever. But we were 39 seconds away from being 4-0.”

And it gave the Steelers a nice boost heading into the final ¾ of the season. To underestimate the impact that first stretch of games had on the team would be unfair to the guys who helped make it happen.

“Everybody on this team put their hand in the pot and helped us win,” RB Rashard Mendenhall said. “Everybody knows their roles and works at them to compete. Those guys did a great job with the time they had.”

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Posted on: February 4, 2011 1:16 pm
Edited on: February 4, 2011 6:21 pm

Breakdown of the 2009 Packers-Steelers shootout

B. Roethlisberger (US Presswire)

Posted by Andy Benoit

Conversation overheard in the media center this week:
Media Guy A: Maybe it’s just me, but why does it feel like we’re going to get a surprising offensive shootout on Sunday?

Media Guy B: Because last time these two “great defenses” squared off it was an absolute scoring fest.

That scoring fest was a 37-36 instant classic in which a Ben Roethlisberger to Mike Wallace 19-yard touchdown on the final play resulted in a 37-36 Steelers victory. It was a fitting end considering that a Roethlisberger to Wallace 60-yard strike had been the first play of the game.

All week both teams have downplayed the relevance of last year’s shootout. And for good reason. The Packers, with dynamite tight end Jermichael Finley in the lineup, had a slightly different offensive structure than what they’ll have this Sunday. And the Steelers were without strong safety Troy Polamalu.

That said, this was barely a year ago, so what we saw is not entirely irrelevant today. Here are some of the key X and O elements from that contest (tip of the cap to Greg Cosell of the NFL Matchup Show for helping with some of the ’09 details).


Inside blitzes

Last time:
The Steelers attacked early with a lot of what’s called Fire X blitzes (having the inside linebackers cross each other to rush the passer). They were successful on a few occasions, though Aaron Rodgers amazed with his ability to deliver throws with defenders bearing down on him. Rodgers also built a lot of locker room cred by popping back up when he did get drilled.

This time: Inside blitzing has been a staple of Pittsburgh’s attack this season. James Farrior recorded six sacks on the year and rising star Lawrence Timmons was a thousand times better than his three sacks suggest. If (IF) the Steelers blitz, their interior ‘backers will be a big part of it.

Corner weakness

Last time:
The Steelers did not have No. 2 corner Bryant McFadden last season (he was in Arizona) and their coverage suffered. Ike Taylor, Willie Gay and Joe Burnett rotated throughout this game. Veteran Deshea Townsend was the nickelback. With so many players altering positions, and with no Polamalu helping out, the entire secondary lacked continuity and consistency.

This time: McFadden is not a stud, but he stabilizes the left corner slot. Willie Gay, who was unfit for a starting job last season, is in a more-fitting nickel role. Gay still has occasional issues on the inside, but this cornerback unit as a whole is in the upper half of the NFL.

Spread formations

Last time: The Packers frequently aligned in the shotgun with four and five wide receivers. This was to take advantage of the thin, “Polamalu-less” secondary.

This time: Given the way Rodgers has played, Green Bay’s depth at wide receiver and the fact that it’s virtually impossible to run on Pittsburgh, expect plenty of spread formations again.


Multiple formation throwing

Last time:
Pittsburgh relied on a variety of different formations to attack the Packers through the air – most of them of the spread variety. The objective behind this was to make Dom Capers simplify his complex defensive scheme. Mission accomplished. On the 11-play game-winning drive, Green Bay never rushed more than four.

This time: Pittsburgh will likely make a more concerted effort to establish the run, but it would make sense to do so out of spread formations. Spreading the field prevents the Packers from cluttering the box. The fewer bodies the Packers have roving around the box, the fewer options they’ll have for confusing Ben Roethlisberger and the offensive line.

Charles Woodson defended Hines Ward

Last time: This was when the packers were in more traditional sets (two and three wide receivers). Woodson, the ’09 Defensive Player of the Year, was utilized as a cover corner on what the Packers believed was Pittsburgh’s most dangerous wide receiver.

This week: Woodson has evolved into more of a safety in Green Bay’s scheme. (When he plays traditional corner coverage, it usually means the Packers are being passive.) But if the Packers do use Woodson as a cover corner, it’s likely he will face Ward again. That would be an excellent physical matchup. Plus, Green Bay’s other corners, Sam Shields and Tramon Williams, are both better equipped than Woodson to handle the blazing downfield speed of Wallace.

Early pass-rush prowess

Last time: Before they got passive in the second half, Green Bay was effective with their zone blitzes. Clay Matthews, in particular, stood out.

This time: Matthews has only gotten better, but the rest of the Packers pass rush has leveled off just a bit. Brad Jones, the starter last season, joined the host of Packers on IR long ago. Replacement Erik Walden is athletic but battling an ankle injury this week. Still, straight up, Green Bay’s pass rush as a whole has an advantage on Pittsburgh’s O-line. Right tackle Flozell Adams doesn’t begin to have the movement skills to handle Matthews, and with center Maurkice Pouncey likely out, you have to wonder if the rest of the line will effectively communicate on blitz pickups. (Offensive line coach Sean Kugler credits Pouncey’s development as the driving force behind the line’s improvement against blitzes.)

[More Super Bowl coverage]

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Posted on: February 3, 2011 5:45 pm

Tomlin not worried about Big Ben (VIDEO)

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

FORT WORTH, Texas – The story that was such a (sorta) big deal this morning has slowly quieted down as the day has gone on.*

*Maybe because you had 800 people following The Situation around on Radio Row, posing for pictures and grasping for handshakes.

It seems like a life ago when news broke this morning that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had been spotted at a piano bar, buying drinks for people and (gasp!) maybe even singing a bit of Billy Joel.

While the story might have been overblown from the beginning, Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin downplayed the entire incident at his presser this morning.

“I am not concerned about that one iota,” he said. “We were talking about approaching this game like we would any other game. It’s normal for guys to eat dinner, believe it or not, every now and then during the course of the week leading up to a game. So, this week is no different than any other. I understand that some things may be reported and viewed differently, but that’s not our concern, really. During the course of the season on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, or what have you, believe it or not, guys live lives.”

Well said. Now, when do we get to see that video of Will Brinson interviewing The Situation?

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Posted on: February 3, 2011 3:29 pm

Rodgers on free time: 'I haven't been carousing'

Posted by Will Brinson

DALLAS -- Packers fans that are sick of "silly media stories" (read: the whole business with the team photo issue) should be relieved that they're not likely to see Aaron Rodgers on film in a karaoke bar singing Billy Joel.

That's because the Packers quarterback has been taking it easy this week when it comes to nightlife.

"I haven't been out carousing," Rodgers said. "I am a homebody so I've been spending a lot of time in my hotel room watching film. I think it is important at the same time that you are sticking with your normal routine."

So, is that a jab at Big Ben? Or simply Rodgers way of pointing out that he's sticking with his routine, which does not involve "carousing."

Certainly the first part of his quote is more explosive, but people have often said that Rodgers thinks very, very carefully about what he says before he says it. Plus, it doesn't seem like Rodgers style to take potshots at his opponents (see: him aggressively defending Jay Cutler).

So it seems pretty likely that Rodgers was just pointing out exactly what he's been doing this week, which happens to be, well, nothing. And for all the people chastising Roethlisberger for his actions (myself included to a degree), it's probably smart to remember that he's been here before, he knows what he's doing and there's probably no need to worry about his preparation before a game as big as Sunday's.

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Posted on: February 3, 2011 10:32 am

MAC players represented well this week

B. Roethlisberger played his college ball at Miami (Ohio). Posted by Josh Katzowitz

ARLINGTON, Texas – I was talking to Steelers backup QB Charlie Batch the other day at Media Day, and we were discussing the sheer number of Mid-American Conference alumni who were participating in the festivities this week and were preparing themselves to play in the Super Bowl.

“It’s pretty crazy,” I said to the man who played at Eastern Michigan more than a decade ago. “There are 13 of you guys playing.”

“Actually,” he said, “there are 15 if you count the practice squad guys.”

Really? Well, let’s count them.

From the Steelers: Batch, Central Michigan’s Antonio Brown, Kent State’s James Harrison, Miami (Ohio’s) Ben Roethlisberger, and Bowling Green’s Shaun Suisham. That’s five.

From the Packers: Bowling Green’s Diyral Briggs, Miami’s Tom Crabtree, Central Michigan’s Josh Gordy, Central Michigan’s Cullen Jenkins, Western Michigan’s Greg Jennings, Eastern Michigan’s T.J. Lang, Buffalo’s James Starks and Central Michigan’s Frank Zombo. That’s eight.

Well, I count 13. Batch thought there were 15. Either way, it’s an impressive total for a non-BCS conference that doesn’t get much in the way of respect from college football/pro football fans.

“Obviously, we can get our guys out there, and we take a lot of pride in it,” Zombo said. “We talk about it quite a bit in the locker room. Some of the key players from the game are from the MAC who are contributing huge for the team. It shows the caliber of player we have in the MAC conference.”

That’s one impressive aspect of this story. It’s not just the scrubs or the practice squad players. It’s guys like Roethlisberger and Jennings and Harrison and Jenkins – some of the biggest stars of the game.

“The only difference in the MAC schools and the (BCS) conferences is the budgets in the programs,” Gordy said, and he’s probably partially correct.

In fact, the MAC has more players that will compete this week than the Big 12 (eight players), Pac-10 (six) and the Big East (four). All of them are BCS conferences. All of them have less MAC players (for the record, the SEC has 18, the Big Ten has 15 and the ACC also has 13).

Still, it’s a nice boon for the MAC that it has so much representation this week.

“At that level, there’s talent everywhere,” Crabtree said. “Whether you’re in the MAC or the Big 10 or whatever, there’s talent across the board. The MAC might not have the depth other conferences have, but the talent is still there.”

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Posted on: February 3, 2011 8:03 am
Edited on: February 3, 2011 8:18 am

Roethlisberger partying during Super Bowl week?

Posted by Will Brinson

The comments on this article should range nicely from "STEELER SUX" to "STOP WASTING MY TIME, LOSER," but it warrants mentioning, I think, that Ben Roethlisberger was reportedly out getting a little loose at Pete's Dueling Piano Bar in Fort Worth where the Steelers are staying this week.

Yes, that report does come via TMZ.com, and, no Ben doesn't do anything stupid. Unless you count choosing Billy Joel's "Piano Man" as his selection during the karaoke session he and "two massive teammates" held from 11:00 PM until 1:15 AM.

People inside the bar told TMZ that Ben was "nice, fun and took care of everyone" -- reportedly he bought several rounds for the entire bar. (And presumably, that was so some jerk wouldn't sell video of him singing to TMZ for $5,000.)

Look, this video, which you have to assume is going to make the rounds Thursday, is really only a big deal because of circumstance.

Ben got in trouble for some pretty nasty allegations that occurred while he was partying too hard in some random, podunk town in Georgia. Ergo, when people Ben's supposed to be in Dallas and focused and renewed and changed and all that stuff.

That doesn't mean that Ben has to go to church every night or go rescue orphans in between Super Bowl practices. Expecting that out of him would be a bit much.

And it's also pretty fine for the guy to cut loose a little bit by enjoying a reasonably quiet evening on the town. But given all that's happened over the last year, it's surprising to see him even risk the potential of public discussion about his behavior in the week leading up to the Super Bowl.

Because regardless of the thought process behind his behavior and whether or not belting out Billy Joel tunes at 1:00 AM in a Piano Bar in a day and age when everyone has a camera phone actually affects his on-field performance, if the Steelers end up losing, people will want to know why he wasn't spending the week getting more prepared.

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Posted on: February 2, 2011 11:20 pm
Edited on: February 3, 2011 1:57 pm

Comparing the quarterbacks

Posted by Andy Benoit

It’s always a treat when two star quarterbacks face off in the Super Bowl -- and it’s no coincidence that it’s happened each of the past three years (Peyton Manning-Drew Brees last season, Kurt Warner-Ben Roethlisberger in SB XLIII and Eli Manning-Tom Brady SB XLII).

Super Bowl XLV offers exactly what Super Bowl XLIV offered: a pair of quarterbacks operating at the height of their powers.

More than meets the eye

Because Ben Roethlisberger has spent his career playing on a team with a powerhouse defense and black-and-blue reputation, there is the misnomer that he is simply an outstanding caretaker. Because his statistical outputB. Roethlisberger (US Presswire) has been all over tA. Rodgers (US Presswire)he board -- his passer rating has been as low as 75.4 one year and as high as 104.1 another -- the debate about his place in the quarterback pecking order will carry on forever.

But what can’t be put into data form is how Big Ben looks on film. Michael Vick might be the most physically gifted athlete in football, but Roethlisberger is the most physically gifted quarterback. He makes plays as a pure passer that others can’t even fathom. Obviously, he has the unparalleled ability to throw with defenders draping off of him. But he is also effective in and out of the pocket. And he’s strong enough to throw from different platforms (i.e. when he’s on the move or when his feet aren’t set). And when Roethlisberger does square up and deliver a fundamentally sound pass, his ball practically whistles.

Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers are similar in this sense. Though not as physically imposing as the 6-foot-5 Roethlisberger, there isn’t a throw Rodgers can’t make. In fact, A-Rod’s velocity and accuracy are a notch better than Big Ben’s. And Rodgers is the more dangerous runner.

Interesting differences

More fascinating are the differences between these two quarterbacks. There’s really one only (besides Big Ben’s ability to make throws after contact). Before the snap, Rodgers is one of the best diagnostic artists in the game. He’s constantly reading defenses and re-aligning tight ends and running backs to alter his protections. Or he’s tacitly readjusting his receivers’ routes (hence the quick slants and smoke screens that have become the hallmark of Green Bay’s offense).

Because of his presnap diagnostic skills, Rodgers’ decisions are often made before the snap. 

Roethlisberger, on the other hand, makes the majority of his decisions after the snap. He’s not the most shrewd reader of defenses, but he compensates with improvisational instincts that are second to none. Roethlisberger is one of the few players in the league who understands defenses better once the ball is in play. Most quarterbacks can’t afford to begin a play behind the eight ball like this. But most quarterbacks don’t have the strength and temerity to constantly work out of a muddied pocket, or an almost otherworldly ability to manipulate defenders with multiple pump fakes. 

On the surface, it might sound like Rodgers’ is the superior style. After all, he’s smart before the snap and can always tap into his own outstanding improvisational skills when need be. But imagine if you’re a defensive coordinator trying to game plan against Roethlisberger. How do you scheme when the opposing quarterback does not follow traditional progressions and methods? You can’t bait him into bad decisions because he does not rely on making good decisions. And there are often no patterns to his decisions. Roethlisberger can be so unsound fundamentally that he’s impossible to trick.

Bottom Line

At the end of the day, both quarterbacks are a nightmare to face. If you blitz Rodgers, he burns you with the quick strike. If you blitz Roethlisberger, there’s no guarantee that you’ll bring him down. If you drop back and play coverage against Rodgers, he’ll calmly shuffle through his progressions. If you drop back against Roethlisberger, he’ll buy time and make one of those sandlot plays that have killed so many defenses.

These are the issues you deal with when going up against these two. And these are the attributes that ultimately landed the Packers and Steelers in Super Bowl XLV.

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Posted on: February 2, 2011 6:31 pm
Edited on: February 3, 2011 3:17 pm

Matchup breakdown: Steelers O vs. Packers D

R. Mendenhall (US Presswire)

Posted by Andy Benoit

In the AFC Championship, the Steelers surprised everyone by coming out running against the Jets. On paper, Pittsburgh’s banged-up offensive line was overmatched against New York’s third-ranked run defense. But on the field, the opposite proved true.

With Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey possibly out this Sunday (ankle/foot), one might think Pittsburgh would be inclined to come out throwing. After all, backup Doug Legursky has a noticeable lack of power, while Green Bay’s nose tackle B.J. Raji has a noticeable abundance of it.
But despite the Legursky-Raji mismatch, don’t be surprised if the Steelers once again rely on Rashard Mendenhall early on. Running the ball shortens the game and keeps Aaron Rodgers off the field. More than that, it decreases the number of times lumbering right tackle Flozell Adams has to fend off lightning pass-rusher Clay Matthews (Adams vs. Matthews is a mismatch that makes every member of the Steeler organization shudder; it’s hard to imagine the Steelers won’t concoct some form of tight end help for Adams.)

Early in the season, the Steeler offensive line and third down back Mewelde Moore struggled mightily with blitz identification. They got the pass-blocking issues in order down the stretch, but with two weeks to prepare, you have to figure Dom Capers will design at least a few new complicated zone exchanges and delayed A-gap blitzes.

What’s more, whether he’s blitzing or feigning a blitz, slot cornerback/rover Charles Woodson is the key to Green Bay’s pressure schemes. If it’s Woodson vs. Ben Roethlisberger in a presnap chess match, Steelers lose.

Super Bowl experience will have a pretty huge impact on this game as well. Here's Hines Ward on that subject:

Running the ball would ameliorate those unfavorable passing game matchups for the Steelers. But more than that, the Steelers may very well feel that they have an advantage against the Packer run defense anyway. Yes, Doug Legursky, left tackle Jonathan Scott and right guard Ramon Foster all lack the power necessary to generate downhill movement as run-blockers. But left guard Chris Kemoeatu doesn’t.

Kemoeatu is one of the most mobile blockers in football. When he gets to the second level and faces linebackers, he’s frighteningly nasty .The Packer defense did an excellent job at keeping inside linebackers Desmond Bishop and A.J. Hawk clean from blockers this season. (Why do you think the inexperienced Bishop and resoundingly average Hawk were the only two Packers to record 100-plus tackles?)

But the Steelers, who run two-tight end base personnel, could give those inside linebackers problems by shifting to three-receiver personnel (which would involve replacing Matt Spaeth with wideout Emmanuel Sanders). The Packers almost always use a 2-4-5 alignment in nickel defense. With only two downlinemen, Kemoeatu would have a clear path to Bishop or Hawk (and remember, in nickel, one of those inside ‘backers will be off the field). In that case, Mendenhall could run inside, or, if he’s lucky, get isolated on the edges against outside linebacker Erik Walden (an impressive athlete but very callow run-stopper).

Roethlisberger is Pittsburgh’s best playmaker, but the run game could very well be Pittsburgh’s best chance at a seventh Lombardi trophy.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com