"I play the game a certain way, and I don't want to change that. People talk about getting the ball out of your hand faster, do this and do that. But I've been playing this game pretty successfully. This is my eighth year and I've done a decent job, we've done a good job and the line has done a good job. I want to make sure they don't get too much blame, because a lot of it is my fault. We'll just play the game the way we know how."
That was Ben Roethlisberger on the Wednesday before a game against the Tennessee Titans that almost certainly would tip this Steelers season one way or the other.
If not defiant, it certainly was a defensive response to an issue of some significance, because when it comes to the matter of whether the 2011 NFL season turns out to be a successful one for these Steelers, the health and welfare of their quarterback is paramount.
When Roethlisberger was making that stand in the team's locker room, he was doing it as a quarterback who had been sacked 14 times, to say nothing of being strip/sacked and intercepted often enough for his team to have turned the ball over more than any other in the league. And no less significant a point was that Roethlisberger was making this stand while wearing a protective boot on the foot he had sprained after being submerged by the Houston Texans' pass rush the previous Sunday.
Clearly, something had to change, and because the Steelers hammered the Titans, 38-17, last Sunday at Heinz Field, there was change, and it was a good thing. Even Roethlisberger sounded convinced.
The quick-game is jargon for a passing attack based on rhythm and dependent upon the ball coming out of the quarterback's hand in a timely fashion. If the quarterback is highly accurate and the receivers have good hands, it's extremely difficult for a defense to do much about this kind of pitch-and-catch.
All of today's great quarterbacks play this game. Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning. And it's a great way to protect the offensive line. How else to explain how Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is being sacked at the rate of once for every 57 pass attempts so far this season? All due respect, but Kraig Urbik starts at right guard for the Bills and the Steelers cut him about 55 sacks of Roethlisberger ago.
Against the Titans, Roethlisberger played that game, and he was very good at it, in fact just as good as he is at every other facet of quarterback play.
What was on display last Sunday at Heinz Field is basically what the Steelers offense should look like, what it can look like, what it needs to look like if the team indeed is to contend for a championship.
And it will look like that provided Ben Roethlisberger accepts one of the undeniable truths of today's NFL: that quarterbacks now protect their offensive linemen every bit as much as offensive linemen protect their quarterback.
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