Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Why Doesn't Big Ben Roll Out of the Pocket As Much As He Used To?


Remember, I told you that I was only able to catch a little more than the final frame of Sunday's Giants/Steelers game, but my thoughts encompass Ben's recent history.

Earlier in his career, Roethlisberger made his name as a big, mobile quarterback who could elude pressure and keep plays alive. It didn't hurt that he had guys like Alan Faneca and Jeff Hartings in front of him, but it showed that Ben would do anything to make sure the ball got to his skill players. More often than not, Ben would take the snap and immediately roll out of the pocket, sometimes all the way to the sideline, in order to extend plays and allow his receivers to get open.

The past two or three seasons, Ben seems to be content with staying in the pocket, and will only begin scrambling as a last ditch effort.

Look, take my opinion for what it's worth. My football expertise consists of intramural flag football at St. Vincent College (on the same fields the Steelers practice on in training camp, so there's that at least). I don't know what goes on inside the minds of elite quarterbacks, but it seems like as some high level signal callers progress in their careers, they tend to shy away from leaving the pocket and try to become the humanization of the classic, pass-first quarterback. Ben's been doing this a lot over the past few seasons.

Maybe he's been spoiled by the success, and wants to prove that his skills can be displayed in a traditional, pocket-passer-type sense. Maybe this is true for all QBs, that there's some sort of status bump for staying in the pocket. I don't know, but I can only view this as a fan.

Ben set rookie records for wins and won a Super Bowl as a young guy who would regularly leave the pocket as soon as the ball was snapped, regardless of pressure. Last year, he made the Pro Bowl as a pass-first guy who stood in the pocket on a high percentage of plays (don't know the exact figures, just going off memory). Does he get more props in the quarterback inner-circle for individual awards as a pocket passer than he does for a Super Bowl ring as a guy who rolls out to make a play?

Ben would roll out of the pocket even when he had a good O-Line. Now, his O-Line is nearly non-existent. I know scrambling to the sideline takes away the chance of throwing to the other side of the field, but at least he has the ability to worry the D that he might take off and run. And maybe he should run. If he's getting hit on 50% of his passing dropbacks already, why not take the hit when you're 5-6 yards downfield? Why look like a chicken without its head when Willie Colon and Chris Keomoeatu are just letting guys in? Seems to make sense to my simple brain.

All I'm saying is Ben has clearly changed his approach to the QB position, and it's resulted in passing records, a Pro Bowl appearance...but also a first round exit from the playoffs, a high number of interceptions and an alarming sack rate. I'd love to see Ben roll out as soon as the ball is snapped, like he did when his team had its most success in his tenure.

A lot of fans and critics keep saying, "GET RID OF THE BALL, BEN!" Me, too! But I'm also saying, give yourself time to get rid of the ball. Roll out.

Take heed. Your current pocket isn't that great.


1 comment:

Cotter said...

Totally, man! Like that bomb he chucked to Hines in Super Bowl XL. Moved out to the left, planted his feet and heaved it. Awesome to watch.

I'm not sure if this has anything to do with the Offensive scheme under Cowher/Whis vs. Tomlin/Arians, but you never know. I mean, everyone will want to blame Arians anyhow (including me, most likely). So it probably works out.