View Full Version : Offensive linemen try to keep Big Ben in protective shell

08-12-2006, 12:37 AM
PHOENIX -- Today, on the two-month anniversary of Ben Roethlisberger's motorcycle accident, this is the worst nightmare of each of his linemen: That he misses a block that is responsible for the quarterback taking his second big hit since June.

It probably would not prompt the type of harassment from the public that befell the Squirrel Hill woman who turned her car into the path of Roethlisberger and his motorcycle June 12, but neither would it be cool.

"I think we'd feel real good if we could keep him from getting hit out there," Pro Bowl center Jeff Hartings said.

Roethlisberger should feel as safe today against the Arizona Cardinals as any NFL quarterback can be. Coach Bill Cowher plans to have him take only a few snaps, he won't drop back into the pocket and he will operate behind one of the best offensive lines in the league.

That line also would like to issue their easy rider a warning to slow down.

"With Ben, hopefully he doesn't run around as much as he does because it does make him more vulnerable to getting hit," Hartings said. "Hopefully, he can make his read and throw it, whether it's there or not, knowing we want to keep him from getting hit this week."

Sooner or later, that hit must come, and there could be some young Cardinals player out to make a name for himself by doing just that early in the 4:05 p.m. game, the first in the new, indoor Cardinals Stadium.

"Hey, bottom line is you're not going to protect him forever; better now than later to find out where he's at," fullback Dan Kreider said, laughing.

Nose tackle Chris Hoke, whose brush into quarterback Charlie Batch last week prompted Roethlisberger to wear a funky fluorescent green beanie in practices, has an insight into what the Cardinals' defensive linemen will be thinking when they line up against Big Ben today.

"You get after him," Hoke said. "If you have an opportunity to sack him, you're going to hit him, you know. No question about it, they're going to hit him just as they would try to hit him in a regular-season game."

Roethlisberger, by his deeds, put his blockers at ease over the past two weeks about his condition and his ability to take a hit so as not to make them apprehensive if, indeed, the next big one comes today.

"From day one, I think through Ben's actions, he's made it easy for all of us to forget what happened this past summer," tight end Heath Miller said.

"So, in my mind, nothing really happened because he hasn't really skipped a beat. He's been his same old self, and I expect nothing different from him."

Said Hartings, "I don't think that's an issue. If they were concerned any damage could be done, I don't think there's any way he would be playing. The fact he's made a decision to play means he feels good."

He also has to feel pretty good about an offensive line considered to be among the best in the game over the past two seasons.

Two linemen, Hartings and left guard Alan Faneca, made the Pro Bowl last season, and left tackle Marvel Smith made it the year before. Faneca is a perennial All-Pro.

"The best protection I have is my offensive linemen," Roethlisberger said.

"I have all the confidence in the world in them that they will protect me, and, hopefully, I don't take any hits this week."

It's no coincidence that during 2003 -- their season of injury and illness in the line -- the Steelers went 6-10; nor that their relative stability the past two seasons came with a 15-1 record in 2004 and a Super Bowl championship last season.

That's when two new starters, right tackle Max Starks and right guard Kendall Simmons (who returned after missing a season with a knee injury) came into sync with the rest of them down the stretch.

"In my opinion, they're the best in the league," said offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt. "Because of the way they play, how physical they are and what they've done for us the past two years in the second half of ballgames, the way we've controlled the clock and run the football."

They have another hurdle to clear because of the retirement of jumbo back Jerome Bettis, a short-yardage maestro.

With Bettis behind them and the defense stacking against the run in front of them, there was little deception about their plans.

"I think toward the end of last year we started playing really well together," Hartings said. "I think that's very important. It's probably more important because right now we don't have Jerome Bettis in the backfield."

Starter Willie Parker, along with Duce Staley and Verron Haynes, are competing to play the old Bus role.

"Could Willie Parker or Duce be that guy?" Hartings asked.

"I think they're capable -- even Verron -- but right now you couldn't look at one of those guys and say he's a Hall of Fame Jerome Bettis. We need to block well."

There's no reason to believe they'll stop anytime soon.

NOTE -- Rookie receiver Santonio Holmes' domestic violence trial has been postponed again until Aug. 30. In the meantime, his attorney, Sam Shamansky, continues to try to have the charge dismissed because the alleged victim, his girlfriend and mother of his third child, doesn't want to testify against him. The Aug. 30 trial would fall one day before the Steelers' preseason home game against the Carolina Panthers.


08-12-2006, 01:27 PM
Since he'll only be in there for a short time theres a higher chance he'll stay unscathed. However, at some point he's going to need to get that first hit out of the way and so it'll be interesting when it happens. It might be today, next week, or a few weeks.

08-12-2006, 02:15 PM
Let's hope every last one of them blocking for him stays on their feet. It's their job to keep him upright and make sure he has a clean uniform at the end of the game!