At 6-foot-5 and 241 pounds, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is not an easy player to knock off his feet, but that is exactly what the Cleveland Browns will be tasked with doing when the two teams play at FirstEnergy Stadium Sunday.
Despite being sacked 380 times for 2,514 lost yards in 10 years at the helm of the Steelers’ offense, Roethlisberger has completed 2,621 passes for a franchise record 32,745 yards and 208 touchdowns against 118 interceptions.
“Getting to him is probably the first step,” Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton said. “Getting him down is something totally different. There are different styles of quarterbacks, but I think as far as the most elusive quarterback, I don’t know that there’s a better one. Fran (Tarkenton) was different because he could scramble and run around, but Fran didn’t take hits or shake hits like Ben does.
“I don’t think there’s been a quarterback in the league that’s taken unabated shots and shrugged guys off and made more big plays than Ben in the history of the league. Ben’s probably the biggest, strongest, most mobile quarterback. He was a shortstop in baseball. You would think he’d be a pitcher. He was a point guard in basketball and you think he’d be the center. And he punts left-footed. This guy is the most athletic guy that we’ll face, meaning the ‘total package of completeness.’”
Having spent the first four years of his career with the Baltimore Ravens, during which time he was a part of many games against the Steelers, Browns outside linebacker
During those meetings with the Steelers, Kruger learned that the most important element in beating the black and gold comes through the pressuring Roethlisberger, who enters Sunday’s game on the heels of a 29-of-45, 367-yard, four-touchdown performance in a 37-27 come-from-behind win over the Detroit Lions last weekend.
“In my mind, it’s just getting to No. 7,” Kruger said, flatly. “He’s really what makes it work. He’s a talented guy, can extend plays and do a lot of good things. They have some really good receivers and a quarterback who can find ways to win. That’s really what I think we’ve got to do, affect him.
“They’re throwing the ball a lot. It’s pretty obvious who they are on tape. They’re a scrappy team that can win games. We see in them a big challenge. We respect them, so we’re going to be preparing like we have every week and get a win.”
On the season, Roethlisberger has completed 247 attempts for 2,901 yards and 17 touchdowns despite being sacked 36 times for 242 lost yards.
“He’s a tough guy to take down, big and strong and pretty quick,” Kruger said. “You’ve got to do a good job of getting to him.”
Despite the multitude of injuries that have come with being sacked 380 times in 10 NFL seasons, Roethlisberger has been able to lead the Steelers to four AFC North Division championships and two Super Bowl titles, earning the admiration of his adversaries along the way.
“Over the course of time, he’s shown the great player that he is,” Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said. “He has a way of making plays, getting it done, extending plays. He’s been unbelievable in the clutch and at key points in games where you need to get a play to win. I have nothing but the utmost respect for him as a player.”
Chudzinski has great respect for both Roethlisberger and the Steelers, especially after watching them work their way back into contention after a slow start to the season.
The Steelers were 0-4 after losing to the Minnesota Vikings, 34-27, in front of 83,518 fans in London’s Wembley Stadium. However, they have gone 4-2 since the bye week, and enter Sunday’s game on a two-game winning streak.
“They’ve played very well the last few weeks and have come up with some big wins,” Chudzinski said. “It’s a great rivalry, so at the end of the day, the records and everything else go out the window. We’re going to be excited for it. It’s Steeler Week, so we’re going to be excited to play them.”