“Big Ben” Roethlisberger (6’5”, 241 pounds) and “Pocket Hercules” Maurice Jones-Drew (5’7”, 208 pounds) have one thing in common: They are nearly impossible to tackle. What is their secret and why do we care?
I’m one of those people who watch the National Geographic Channel. A lot. In fact, I use it to get me through the offseason. So I see quite a few nature shows.
One that sticks in my mind is a documentary on elephants. At one point a pride of lions was caught on film trying to “bring down” an elephant.
I see that picture in my head whenever I watch opposing linebackers trying to tackle Ben Roethlisberger. Notice that I used the plural: Linebackers.
In all of the Steelers games I’ve watched, I cannot remember ever seeing one LB get Roethlisberger on the ground before he can throw the ball. I’m not saying that it has never happened; I’m just saying I can’t recall it. The winning formula appears to be at least two linebackers or one-and-a-half D-linemen.
What I do remember is the moment in Ben’s rookie season that I first saw him escape the pocket while dragging two defenders clutching his waist.
My husband happened to enter the living room during the replay. I said, “Look at this rookie QB.”
And he said, “Him? No. 7? He’s a quarterback? He’s enormous!” Yes he is.
But Roethlisberger is not the biggest man on the football field. I was actually surprised when I started writing this article to discover that he is only 6'5''. In my head he’s more like 6'9''. I have a feeling that in the minds of opponents he’s more like 7'2''.
Ben Roethlisberger was very fortunate to be drafted by a winning team with an awesome running back and a dominant defense. Bill Cowher brought him along slowly.
People forget that the guy we see currently completely 50-yard passes to Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace was limited in his first few years to a maximum of about 21 passing attempts per game. He didn’t really arrive as a professional-level passer until that Super Bowl-winning pass to Santonio Holmes.
But what No. 7 may have lacked in NFL passing acumen he made up for in toughness, will and strength. I have no idea what Roethlisberger can lift in the weight room. I don’t think Pittsburgh fans care.
Ben’s strength is football-field strength. Somehow his torso and legs are strong enough to withstand anybody’s first hit without flinching. And that’s more than almost any other QB in the game can say.
The first two tackle attempts don’t faze him. He completely disregards 275-pound pass-rushers as if they were gnats: A minor annoyance as he surveys the field.
We all saw his toughness at work in Week 14 as Roethlisberger successfully won a football game when he could hardly walk. There is something in Ben that makes him able to ignore adversity.
I haven’t been a fan of Roethlisberger’s off the field and I would have called this intangible quality “arrogance” up until last season, when Ben started to come down to earth and decided to stop being a jerk. To be blunt.
Now I have to call it sheer “strength of will.” In combination with his physical gifts and toughness, this mental determination makes me pity anyone whose defensive assignment is to rush the passer. Good luck with that.