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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The one constant

The time has come to point the finger at the real blame for much of the Steelers problems with protection of the quarterback.

In 2006, Ben Roethlisberger was sacked 46 times working behind the same offensive line that had given up 32 sacks the previous season - eight of which were recorded against potted plant Tommy Maddox.

Roethlisberger's 23 sacks came on 268 pass attempts in 2005, while his 46 sacks the next season came on 469 attempts. By comparison, Charlie Batch, who threw 53 passes in 2006, was sacked just three times.

In 2007, Roethlisberger went down 47 times on 404 pass attempts, more than one time per 10 pass attempts. Batch threw 36 passes and was not sacked.

The line was a little different. Sean Mahan replaced Jeff Hartings at center and Willie Colon was in place of Max Starks at right tackle. Marvel Smith also missed some time at left tackle, with Starks replacing him.

But remember, Smith missed some time in 2005 and was replaced by Trai Essex, then a rookie. And still, the Steelers gave up 32 sacks on 379 pass attempts that season.

Roethlisberger has already been sacked 12 times this season, including eight on Sunday against Philadelphia.

Again, the line is different, with Justin Hartwig replacing Mahan and Chris Kemoeatu in for Alan Faneca.

The only constant has been Roethlisberger.

The biggest problem on Sunday against the Eagles was that on a number of occasions, Philadelphia sent more guys after Roethlisberger than the line could block.

But when the defense is sending six pass rushers and you have five blockers, the quarterback is responsible for the extra man.

But Roethlisberger trusts his scrambling ability too much. How many times on Sunday did we see him try to scramble up into the pocket to escape on oncoming rusher only to step into a sack? Five, six?

Think he would have been better served getting rid of the ball or taking a shot throwing to a receiver working on one-on-one coverage?

Certainly not all of the blame lies with Roethlisberger. The line play was not good - particularly once the Eagles got rolling.

But Roethlisberger's got to realize that when the defense is rushing six or seven guys, he's got one-on-one coverage.

He's got to recognize that and take a shot at beating the one-on-one. That's the only way teams will stop sending the house at him.


Anonymous said...

Anyone who tries to blame Ben for that game last week didn't watch it.

adamg said...

Ben is a gun-slinger and in all liklihood won't ever change. He's always going to hold the ball too long trying to make a play - similar to the way Brett Favre does. I think we're all just going to have to accept that he'll be sacked a lot in his career until he gets banged up enough and gets tired of it, then he'll start getting rid of the ball quicker.

Anonymous said...

Lolley should stick to being Jim Wexell's errand boy. The way he tries to defend the line by using garbage time Charlie Batch 2007 stats in which he completed less than half of his passes and threw three picks but "praised him" for not taking a sack is hilarious.

James said...

so you'd be ok if bruce arians went home after that game and got a good nights rest knowing he did everything he could?

Anonymous said...

I think Dale is hitting the nail on the head here...he's not blaiming just Ben but he does need to take some of the heat. He will not make it to the bye week if he continues to play like this.

Uncle Rico said...

Pass-pro started trending downhill the year before Ben took over. As a percentage of sacks to dropbacks, the Steelers were below average starting in 03. If you want to bring Batch into it, then the 1st Baltimore game last year is one comparison. Ben took 3 sacks on 19 dropbacks, and was battered as much as he was last Sunday, with the other 'one constant' Simmons handing out free shots like Halloween candy. Like we've always see from Simmons, he routinely turned away from pressure that game. Between the B and C, Colon would have 2 to 3 guys showing blitz all night, and Simmons would ignore it and turn to help Mahan in the A who often had no one to block. Ben got knocked out of that game, after posting a perfect rating, tossing 5 TDs. Enter Batch, and Simmons tries to get him killed too, same way. He did throw one away quickly near the goalline instead of taking a sack, which kept a 20y FG attempt from becoming 27y. And later tossed a pick, while up by 31 in the Q4. Sure Ben could get the ball out faster at times. But I can take the good with the bad with him. Just like that Baltimore game. But I can't take the good with the marginally average we get from the OL. That's not an acceptable trade off. And I can't accept outright stupidity from guys in positions who should know better. Like Arians. That first drive Sunday was good. They mixed in the run, no shotgun. They march. Next drive he starts working in the shotgun and starts snuffing out any threat of run against a small and depleted front 7. So Philly starts to pin their ears back. And Arians counters by turning up the volume with more shotgun? This D was primed for a grind down, and Arians took that off the table early in a one score game. And since midway thru last season teams have been getting their ends vertical to keep Ben in the pocket. How is it that they are at the quarterpole of this season still without a remote clue as to how to defeat that? It's not rocket science. Bring out 3TEs, not a one who can block? That's it? All of them slow off the snap to boot and got ragdolled all day. $7m sitting on the bench. When was the last time you saw Starks get tossed routinely? Not that Starks is the answer, but 3OTs is a much better option in both phases of O than 3TEs. I don't get that infatuation in the least. There's plenty of blame to go around (I should've started with Colbert, but this is already too lengthy). But of all parties, at least Ben more than compensates for his own share.

Anonymous said...

Dale is correct. Philly game last week, Ben would have been hit or sacked about the same amount, but for every amazing play Ben makes, he also gets sacked 2-3 times. Would Ben be sacked 47 times in a season, no, probably about 25-30 if he got rid of the ball quicker. Would he have still got the crap kicked out of him last week. Uh, yeah.

Patrick said...

this is an excellent point and something I was pondering recently

lets say for aguement philly blitzed all 11 guys ( I know, who would do that?) then someone MUST be open and its on Ben to find that guy

It's no different if they bring 6or 7 (which they did),someone is open or at least one on one

Its Ben's job to find that match up and exploit it

kelly said...

People always want to play the blame game, it's natural. But as I said in another post, the blame for last week gets spread all around. The coaches for the game plan, Ben for not burning a blitzing D, the receivers for not reading and running their hots, the backs and TE's for not picking up blitzers and of course the Oline. A lot went wrong Sunday, let's hope it's corrected for Monday.

datruth4life said...


I agree that Ben plays a large part in many of the sacks and that he needs to get rid of the ball quicker. However, I do think that problem is compounded by the Steelers needing an upgrade in talent on the OL. Kendall Simmons should not be a starting guard in the NFL. Willie Colon should be playing guard and not tackle, where he could be serviceable. Chris K is young and talented, but that was only his third game starting and his pass blocking needs a lot of work. Hartwig is an upgrade over Mahan, but he isn't a Pro Bowl center. Marvel is a good left tackle, but he's had his moments the past few years and Trent Cole abused him on a couple of plays this past week.

Anyone notice how Leftwich came in, got rid of the ball a lot quicker and burned their blitz a few times on that last drive? No, I'm not saying Leftwich should start over Ben, but Ben has to get rid of the ball quicker. I watched the game again (I DVR'd it) and the Eagles regularly had 9 people in the box against the Steelers from the 2nd quarter on until the end of the game. Bruce Arians did a very poor job of adjusting to the same Eagles blitz that netted them 6 sacks in one quarter.

They had the OL so frustrated that they didn't know who to block, and when they did know, they lost a lot of one on one battles. This game could be a blip on the screen or a sign of things to come for the rest of the year. We'll know more after the game against the Ravens.
I do think Tomlin is playing with fire if he doesn't add another DL to the mix, most liklely NT Scott Paxson from the practice squad. When you are playing the 2 most physical teams on your schedule who will try to run you off the field, the Steelers will need that extra lineman to eat up some snaps and help keep Chris Hoke fresh. Casey won't be back until after the bye week at the earliest, so you can't depend on him coming back to rescue the day.


Anonymous said...

I hope Ben just starts chucking it, coverage doesn't matter, just chuck it so mindless dopes like Dale get what they want.

Just don't start whining about picks Mmmmm k?

Tom said...

Lol I don't think people can just take their anger out on Dale, what he's sayign is the complete truth. He isn't saying it's Ben at fault solely, but it's well documented that he holds the ball 5 of 6 seconds too early in some situations. Some of that is to do with playcalling, the RBs need to get involved in dump-off passes, wasn't that what Mewelde Moore was supposed to bring to the table? The O-Line needs work, yeah, the playcalling need work, but Ben needs to realise that not every play has to go for 35 yards. I'd rather 3rd and 6 off of 2 short pass plays that 3rd and 16 because we haven't called the right plays, because on 3rd and 16 you know the D is gonna being more than 4 guys. More than 4 guys = head in my hands hoping Ben doesn't stay down.

datruth4life said...

The only thing that is separating Ben from moving into the Peyton Manning and Tom Brady club of QBs is getting the ball out of his hands quicker and knowing when to get rid of the ball versus taking a sack.

This past year, he decided that he'd rather take a sack than throw an interception. Good. Now he needs to take the next step and learn that throwing the ball away and living for another day is not such a bad thing. When he learns to do that and the OL improves is when I think this team will be a serious contender again.


Patrick said...


i agree but the thing with Ben is he really isn't a 3 step drop, read the D and strike type of QB. Thats why you hear a lot about teams trying to contain him and not let him roll out, let things develop and find his guy. Thats where he is at his best.

And this isn't a knock on Ben, he is top shelf. But this is an area that he is going to need to work on or we can expect more on the same defenses Philly brought.

I think the answer, at least partially, is Heath Miller. I hope the coaches agree. He could change the game Mon and probbaly for the rest of the season.

Dale Lolley said...

I was there at the stadium and watched the whole blessed thing. I could see who was open and who wasn't on every play.
Were you?
I've seen every game Ben has played as a pro in person.
Have you?
Everyone is trying to blame strictly the offensive line or the coordinator. Nobody's pointing at the quarterback.
I think Roethlisberger is a franchise quarterback. I've never said that he wasn't.
But the quarterback has a very big hand in this as well. More so than most think.
When they're sending one more player than the line can block, who do you think is responsible for the extra guy. I've got a hint, it's not the offensive coordinator. It's the quarterback.
One of the simple rules of football is that when a team blitzes from one side, that's where you throw the ball. That didn't happen.
Ben trusts his scrambling ability too much. At least four of the sacks he took the other day were because they pinched him with the ends and he stepped up into the pocket and didn't get rid of the ball.
That's why Brady and Manning don't get sacked as much, they get rid of it.
You only have to beat the one-on-one coverage once or twice to get the defense out of that, particularly in game as close as Sunday's way.
Is the offensive line average to below-average? Yes. But there are a number of teams out there with average to below average lines that get the job done without giving up nearly 50 sacks.

datruth4life said...


Well said. Well said. Man, is that all this board has to do to get you fired up? Keep up the great work. Still, do you think Paxson will make his debut this year on Monday night?

Alex said...

I think you apologize for the oline WAY to much. Sure Ben needs to throw the ball faster but I think it is much more complicated than that.

Our running game has suffered every year since it was dominant in 04, with that teams can blitz more. Also since teams know that our line sucks in pass pro they also blitz more. Saying that our sacks have gone up just because of Ben really oversimplifies things.

That said I think we need to improve the run game and lesson Ben's number of attempts. He is not the type of QB to have a really high number of attempts and lead a complicated passing attack. He needs a great line that can force teams to put 8 or 9 in the box and let him work off of playaction.

deljzc said...

Play action isn't the answer vs. the blitz. Never has been and never will. Read up on why the 46 defense worked and now doesn't.

Dale's pinned the tail right on the donkey's ass. The sacks are part of the style Roethlisberger's plays.

When the coaches have changed, the offensive line has changed and the skill position guys have changed, yet Roethlisberger has never been sacked less than 8% of his drop backs (and in fact has gotten worse), he needs to rethink the way he plays the position, for good or bad.

Because here's the other side of the coin. If Roethlisberger ever loses his mobility because of an injury and he tries to play the same style of quarterback he is now, he will turn into a bad quarterback very quickly. And I mean REALLY bad.

Alex said...

But don't you think a good running game would limit teams willingness to blitz constantly?

It seems decent teams can take away our running game so easily. If it was harder to stop, like in 04 and 05, then wouldn't the PA game be more effective?

I also admit that Ben must change his playing style. When the oline was better and he was throwing less passes he could get away with holding onto the ball but now that option isn't viable anymore. Arians could help with this a lot too, featuring the RB in our passing game could DRAMATICALLY cut back our number of sacks.

It should also be said that sometimes Ben increases our sacks by holding onto the ball but he also avoids sacks that Peyton Manning or Brady would be unable too. His mobility is a two edged sword.

Anonymous said...

Dale is spot-on here. How many times did I yell at the TV "hit the hot route!", "throw it away", or "let the receivers try to make a play!"

By the way, I'm in Ben's hometown and we love him to death, but it was obvious that much of that pressure was exaggerated by holding the ball too long.

Anonymous said...

Dale, sweetie, I loved the piece. All those boys who don't agree just haven't been watching.


Anonymous said...

All I did was yell "throw the freakin(that's not the word I used) ball....Gotta dump it off to the back ot TE outta the backfield...will slow a blitz all day long....Where was the screen at?

I think if we would have called one he still would have held on too long

Anonymous said...

Great post Dale. I could not agree with you more.

Dale Lolley said...

I think they may try to get through this one without Paxson. With Woods still hurt, they already had to make a move with Russell, but they're hoping Woods might be ready next week.

Dale Lolley said...

And they did call a couple of bubble screens, but Asante Samuel sniffed one out. On the other, Ben mishandled the snap. That was when he threw all the way back across the field and should have been intercepted.

As for the running game, they're not running it as much as they used to. Hell, they ran the ball 618 times in 2004 and attempted 358 passes.
They want more balance because they've got a franchise QB.

Plus, Parker's a different running back than what they had in Bettis and Staley in 2004. He'll take some losses. He's a great back, don't get me wrong, but it's a different style.

Anonymous said...

>>Dale Lolley said...
And they did call a couple of bubble screens, but Asante Samuel sniffed one out. On the other, Ben mishandled the snap. That was when he threw all the way back across the field and should have been intercepted>>

But he did what you wanted, he just threw it. So don't talk about "should have been intercepted". He did what you guys "want" him to do.

Samuel snuffed one out, and Ben took the sack. That was a smart decison on his part no?

To actually PRAISE Charlie Batch for not taking a sack when he has a QB rating of 50 was a stupid comparison to make.

And we also won't talk about when Ben did take three step drops and BOTH Holmes and Ward dropped passes.

Funny how that never got mentioned.

deljzc said...

To Alex...

Did the Bears' all-out 46 blitz ever have problems vs. the run? Did teams back them try to run them out of pressure?

Running the ball doesn't work when they throw 7 guys on the line of scrimmage and the safeties are both in the box in all sorts of formation.

What destroyed the 46 defense is the spread offense. Mouse Davis and his 4 wide, 1 RB formations and quick decisions by the quarterback.

I'm not saying that's the offense I want to run, but when a team dares you with that many players coming after the quarterback, you have to beat them with quick passes or 1-on-1's down the sideline. And as Dale has said, the quarterback is responsible for the one extra guy. He needs to read the one safety and throw a ball into single coverage and hope the reciever makes a play.

In all honesty, the QB and line were TOO worried about blocking everyone instead of thinking "How can I attack this formation?". Everybody's mind on the field was on the wrong thing.

Tbayraktar said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dale Lolley said...

He should have thrown the ball away. Let's see, take a loss of downs or take an eight-yard loss? I'll take the loss for eight yards Alex. Yep, that's a good decision.
You keep right on defending that.
You guys are making this out like I'm some kind of Roethlisberger basher. That's not the case.
What I am pointing out is that he's not without blame in this whole thing.
Is it a great offensive line? No.
But we're talking about a quarterback who rarely throws the ball away.
He holds onto the ball looking to make plays. There's nothing wrong with that. But he's going to be heavily sacked because of it. The other teams are getting paid to play too.

datruth4life said...


Most of us understand perfectly what you are saying. Big Ben still has that step to take: realizing that taking so many sacks is not a good thing for this team. I think once he figures that out, this offense and team will take a step forward.

That Eagles game kind of reminded me of the Broncos game and Jets game this past year. We went into both games thinking this team was pretty good, but came out realizing that teams who are supposed to be good don't lose to teams that they are supposed to beat. When it happens, then you know something isn't right. Those 9 sacks and not being able to score any points besides 2 field goals this past week was beyond ugly. Was it a blip or will it be a recurring theme, like last year?

We'll soon find out.

Dale Lolley said...

I don't know that the Steelers were supposed to beat the Eagles. They were, after all, underdogs. I picked Philly to win the game as did many others.
It's tough to win on the road against a good team. And Philly's a good team.
The troubling this was how the Steelers let things snowball on them.

datruth4life said...


I know the Steelers were the underdogs against the Eagles, but I'm speaking from the point of view where you think this team is pretty good and then they go out and get manhandled and their QB gets beat to a pulp. You thought the OL was turning the corner and improved, and they go out and lay a huge egg.

I don't know about anyone else, but I was extremely surprised how bad the offense looked this past week. If anything, I thought the offense would be way ahead of the defense this year. With improved special teams and the D playing at a high level, if the offense gets it together, this team could be dangerous.


Anonymous said...


We are close.. we will see on Monday night.


Anonymous said...

Mendenhall just sent me a text. Says he gonna roll over the Ravens. Don't let them know about this, please.

Dale Lolley said...

I would agree with that datruth.
It wasn't that they lost, it was the way that they lost.

Anonymous said...

Ben certainly gets a "bit" of the blame, maybe 1 or 2 of those sacks. We can live with that. What we can't live with is the revolving door offensive line we have. Our QB is not going to make it thru the year with that offensive line.

The O.C. gets 1/2 of the blame in this debacle, by not changing his play calling, and not making the proper adjustments.

adamg said...

Jaworski was quoted saying after looking at the game tape that 3 or 4 of the sacks were caused by BR not reading/hitting the hot receiver.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure most that post on here saw the game last night vs. the Bears. Granted, Orton was sacked 4 times but he stood int he pocket and delivered the ball to a receiver that had one on one coverage numerous times. I'm sure it helped them looking at what we didn't do well...but it's also worth noting that Ben gets antsy and probably is to blame for half of the sacks last week too.

Dale Lolley said...

That was also in Chicago. Philadelphia's defense is much better at home where the crowd can affect audibles.