Big Ben Holding Onto The Ball Too Long? Let's Stop The Stereotype!

Warren SicilianoCorrespondent IOctober 31, 2008

Okay before you react to the title - I am here to say Ben Roethlisberger does hold onto the ball longer than many Monday morning armchair quarterbacks would like, but lets examine why in more detail before we lump him in as one of the worst quarterbacks of all time. I, for one, am sick and tired of hearing on the Radio or TV or reading article after article on how terrible Ben is as a quarterback and is the problem behind the Steelers offense. It is just not true.

Holding onto the ball too long is a quarterback commandment that should never be broken because it insinuates a lack of quick decision-making and poor technique for those playing the quarterback position and is set in the football fan collective mind as a rookie mistake that one must grow out of eventually. Indeed, that is true for most quarterbacks, especially rookies that do it. They look lost and like they don't know what to do. It is not the only reason that a quarterback hangs onto the ball however.

Big Ben does not hang onto the ball because of indecision or poor technique in my opinion. He does it to buy his receivers time to get open down the field and to make a play. The difference is subtle, but if you notice, his eyes are always looking down field to make that play that will possibly let a receiver get free to score a touchdown. He uses his size to his advantage - he knows that he is hard to tackle and get to the ground which can often buy that extra couple of seconds for him to get that ball down the field. This is unlike the "rookie mistake" of holding onto the ball too long because of indecision and staring at one receiver or to take off running instead of looking for his check-downs.

As he has said himself, it is a double-edged sword which can still lead to sacks and interceptions, but he knowingly will risk that because he trusts that his receivers will come through. To me, that is his biggest mistake - he doesn't have the high quality receivers that a quarterback can trust to get open and go up for a ball thrown down thefield with coverage nearby like other quarterbacks can count on. Eli Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees and even Terry Bradshaw back in the day have or had those type of receivers, they also have much better protection from their offensive line than does Ben.

The answer to this puzzle is for the Steelers coaches and front office to build a team around Ben that compliments his style of play. He is clearly their franchise quarterback and need to get the correct talent on the offensive line and receiver core to match Big Ben's strengths. The answer is not to stereotype Ben as an inept quarterback making rookie mistakes and see his talents for what they are and why he plays the way he does. As a huge Steeler fan and obviously a Big Ben fan, I am behind him 110% because I know he can bring the Steelers offense back to the glory days of multiple Superbowl wins with a high-powered offense. It's time that the coaches and personnel folks for the Steelers get smart and surround Ben with what he needs to be successful and also time for the armchair quarterback sports writers to actually intelligently analyze the situation and not take the popular route of stereotyping a very talented player.