Somehow, Ben Roethlisberger has made a living of being a man among boys, when the “boys” are giant defensive linemen.
The Steelers quarterback sheds pass rushers as if he’s greased up in oil, extends the play, and then makes defenses pay. For a Bears defense that needs to get its pass rush humming, simply getting to Big Ben won’t be enough.
They need to find a way to bring him down.
“If you get a chance to get him down, you’ve got to wrap up,” said middle linebacker D.J. Williams, who has played Roethlisberger five times in his career. “He’s such a big guy, you can’t just hit him and knock him down.”
Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker knows Roethlisberger well. He spent four seasons with the Browns, including one as defensive coordinator.
“You have to take it up a notch with him. It takes a well-coordinated pass rush all the time to be able to get it done with him. It’s not just one guy,” Tucker said. “You need great pocket collapse, you need great edge rush and level pass rush.
“It has to be a relentless effort and a great level of awareness in your rush, but without hesitation.”
Tucker said the Bears’ video department put tape together of Roethlisberger’s ability to evade tacklers and make big plays throughout his career.
“You sit there at night and watch the tape and say ‘wow, they had him, oh no, they don’t have him [and] he throws the ball 60 yards down the field for a touchdown.’ … He’s a difference-maker-type player,” Tucker said.
Stephen Paea won’t change his tackling technique – he’ll go straight for Big Ben’s arms.
“For me, when I tackle guys like that, I wrap them in the arms because he can’t throw the ball,” Paea said. “He can’t do anything. He knows when you wrap him in the arms, you’re trying to hit the ball, he just has to fall down, or else the second guy will come and try to hit the ball out.”
Pittsburgh’s offensive line is far from its strength, especially without center Maurkice Pouncey, so the Bears will have their opportunities. Through two games, the Steelers have allowed seven sacks and 12 quarterback hits.
“He’s a huge guy. He’s probably about my size. The biggest thing is you’ve got to grab around him, just hold on to him and do anything you can,” said Bears defensive end Corey Wootton, who at 6-foot-6, 270 pounds, is an inch taller and about 30 pounds heavier than Roethlisberger. “You can see sometimes when people have him wrapped up clearly in a sack and he gets out of it, it’s a strength that he has.”
The Steelers are 0-2 with the league’s 31st-ranked offense, but you wouldn’t know it by the way the Bears’ brass talked up Roethlisberger and his elusiveness.
“There are a lot of faster quarterbacks in the league, but I don’t know that there’s been one any better over the last decade at extending plays under the chaos of a pass rush better than Ben Roethlisberger has done it,” Marc Trestman said, “and made bigger plays than he has over his career.”
For Week 2, the term used around Halas Hall was “population tackle” to bring down Adrian Peterson. For Week 3, a team effort also is necessary to neutralize the opponent’s star player.
And when a Bear gets to Big Ben, he can look to the team’s namesake for a tackling strategy.
“The biggest thing is kind of bear hug him, almost,” Wootton said, “just to get his hands so he [won’t] be able to brush you off.”
• Kevin Fishbain covers the Bears for Shaw Media and HubArkush.com. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.