Thursday, September 18, 2008
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Steelers detest seeing Ben Roethlisberger bounced around in the pocket with what they feel are late and illegal hits and promise to handle it one way or another.
"A lot of us as a line feel we have to protect him a little more outside the whistle," tackle Willie Colon said yesterday. "Guys are going to take shots at him and try to knock him down. He makes us run, so if we see stuff like that we have to kind of be there and get after guys who try to do stuff like that. I'm going to be looking for it, especially this Sunday."
Roethlisberger, who went through a full practice yesterday, has been sacked five times and has a slight separated right shoulder because of one. That's bad enough, but he also has been hit twice on questionable calls not involving a sack. One occurred late in the first half against Houston when defensive tackle Amobi Okoye hit him low, causing a slightly hyperextended knee. Hitting quarterbacks low is illegal in the NFL, but no flag was thrown on that play.
- Game: Steelers (2-0) at Philadelphia Eagles (1-1).
- When: 4:15 p.m. Sunday.
- Where: Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia.
- TV: KDKA.
- The line: Eagles by 3.
- The skinny: The Steelers are 0-7 in Philadelphia since winning there in 1965.Bruised already
Then Sunday, Cleveland's 350-pound nose tackle Shaun Rogers slammed into Roethlisberger well after he threw a pass. No flag was thrown on that play either, which incensed some of his teammates. Linebacker LaMarr Woodley was penalized earlier in the game for hitting Cleveland quarterback Derek Anderson just as he released the ball.
"I saw that, now that was very late," guard Kendall Simmons said of Rogers' hit.
"How can you not see Shaun Rogers make a hit like that?" Colon wondered about the officials who called no penalty. "Especially before the game when Andra Davis was saying he'll take the fine?"
Davis, the Browns' middle linebacker, was quoted Saturday in the Cleveland Plain Dealer that he and his teammates had to rough up Roethlisberger even if it meant doing so against the rules.
"This game, we've just got to not worry about fines or late hits or whatever the referee is going to do," Davis told the Plain-Dealer. "We've just got to go out and get him down because you know they take care of the quarterbacks in this league. But we've just got to put that behind us. If we get fined, we get fined. We've just got to make sure we get the job done."
Said Colon: "You hear remarks like that, you kind of take it personally. I know I do. We just have to be able to keep him as clean as possible and make sure there's nothing really dirty going on."
The Steelers have sent a video clip of the Rogers hit to the league office.
"When Woodley hit Derek Anderson, I don't think it was particularly late," Hines Ward said. "But they made the call. You'd just like to see it called both ways. It definitely wasn't.
"What can you do? You turn it into the league and you hope the league comes back and judges it. But for us, we definitely want to protect our quarterback as much as possible. That's why it's so important for us as a unit to try to keep as many hits off him as possible."
No one in the NFL has been sacked as often as Roethlisberger the past two seasons. He was sacked 46 times in 2006 and 47 last season, second and third most in franchise history.
Five sacks in two games projects to 40 for the season, down slightly, but his percentage of sacks are higher. Last season, counting sacks, he dropped back to pass 451 times and was sacked 10.42 percent of the time. This season, he dropped back 38 times and has been sacked 13.15 percent.
Now comes the blitzing defense of the Philadelphia Eagles, who will go after Roethlisberger with everything they have.
"Oh, of course, no doubt about that," Simmons said. "So there will probably be a couple of skirmishes in there. I can guarantee that. That's part of it."
The linemen, though, say they are prepared to do whatever it takes to protect Roethlisberger the rest of the way.
"You do whatever you have to do, if they want to take it to that step," Simmons said. "I'm not the type of guy to play dirty, that has never been my issue, but you don't sit there and let your guy get beat up on. You protect him. If they want to go after the whistle, then you do it and let the referees decide on what's going to happen after that because they can't let it happen, they have to do something about it."
"He's taken some shots," Colon said. "For the most part, you can't help worry about him. He's a key factor for our success this year.
"Hopefully they'll be clean about it. If not, as a line we have to protect him a lot more outside the whistle."