By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Saturday, November 20th, 2010 at 4:15 pm in Oakland Raiders.
For a guy who lost his first four games of the season because he made bad situations worse, Ben Roethlisberger has made a career out of doing the opposite.
The more time Roethlisberger spends running plays as drawn up in the playbook, the better chance the Raiders have of beating the Pittsburgh Steelers today at Heinz Field.
The New England Patriots took charge of their 39-26 win over Pittsburgh last Sunday by keeping Roethlisberger from breaking from the pocket, shaking off defenders and completing passes downfield.
Roethlisberger finished 30 of 49 for 397 yards and three touchdowns, but the numbers were deceiving, with much of the damage coming in a 23-point fourth quarter in a game the Steelers never seriously threatened to win.
The Raiders are tied with San Diego for third in the NFL with 27 sacks, one behind Green Bay and St. Louis, but it will be crucial for defense ends Lamarr Houston and Matt Shaughnessy, as well as rush end Kamerion Wimbley and Trevor Scott, to attack in such a way that keeps Roethlisberger from breaking to the outside.
It is there that Roethlisberger will look downfield for receivers such as Hines Ward and the speedy Mike Wallace to break off their routes and be ready for a spontaneous big gain.
“I think he has a unique skill set that lends itself to making big plays as plays break down,’’ Steelers coach Mike Tomlin told Bay Area reporters by conference call this week. “That’s his distinguishing characteristic, if you will.’’
To hear former 49ers quarterback Steve Young tell it, Roethlisberger is much different than quarterbacks such as Tom Brady and Peyton Manning who specialize in dissecting defenses as drawn up in the playbook.
Young, in a weekly appearance on KNBR this week, broke down Roethlisberger’s game this way:
“To me, he’s a great improvisational quarterback and not a great quarterback because he doesn’t do it within the structure of the play called in the huddle.
“He’s proved me wrong with winning Super Bowls, but a lot of that is his defense getting the ball back a ton. But you talk about playing in the system within the confines of what you just called in the huddle, his production is average.
“I think he’s phenomenal when that thing breaks down and he improvises.’’
Roethlisberger, who was suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy stemming from allegations of sexual assault, views his 137.0 quarterback rating when flushed from the pocket as “strictly a coincidental thing. I’m not a quarterback who gives up easily. I’m always trying to keep a play going and fight through it.
“Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s not so good.’’
Raiders defensive coordinator said Raiders can’t rush the passer as if he’s a stationary target.
“Everybody that rushes needs to be aware of where he is and grab cloth and every piece of him you can and get a lot of guys on him,’’ Marshall said..“These guys are trained and schooled to always be aware of where the quarterback is no matter who we’re playing. If it’s a quarterback that really can’t run then they are more `cut it loose’ and not as aware of where he is.’’