Last week, NFL Network’s Greg Rosenthal took a look at whether or not Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was being underrated by his peers. This week, NFL Films Analyst Greg Cosell examines how Big Ben has improved as a signal caller through out his career.
In January 2009, Roethlisberger was not very good before the snap. One of the reasons he moved as often as he did was his inconsistency in recognizing blitz concepts at the line of scrimmage. He was still processing information, trying to decipher the defense during his drop into the pocket. You cannot be controlled, decisive and precise as a quarterback playing that way. It was the singular reason Roethlisberger had such a strong tendency to play sandlot football.
The best way to portray Roethlisberger at that point in his career was this: When his pre-snap read was correct, he was outstanding, delivering with rhythm, timing and accuracy. When the picture was a little cloudy and muddied, his predisposition was to rely on his instincts. Roethlisberger was more of a reactionary quarterback, responding to (and countering) the defense after the snap with his strength, exceptional movement ability and extraordinary downfield vision on the run.
Gradually over time, Roethlisberger has gotten better and better … One part of Roethlisberger’s improvement for which he does not get enough credit is his ability to make throws consistently from the pocket. It sounds strange to say that, because that’s the essence of NFL quarterbacking: delivering from the pocket. Yet the continued emphasis on his distinctive style has led many to disregard his pocket passing. I charted all 60 of Roethlisberger’s pass plays of 20 yards or more in 2011. Only five of them came outside the pocket. Time and again, Roethlisberger exhibited one of the most essential attributes necessary to play at a consistently high level: the ability to stand in the pocket in the face of pressure and deliver the ball with accuracy. That’s an element of his play that often gets overlooked. It shouldn’t.
Cosell concludes his piece with the following assessment: “In his early years, Roethlisberger was an instinctive, intuitive player who was special at times, but who had sandlot tendencies that limited his consistency. Now, after eight years as the Steelers’ starter, he’s a far more mature, disciplined quarterback. That will only lengthen his career. Will we continue to see those signature plays that have defined his career? Certainly. But my guess is we’ll see fewer of them, because he’s a better overall player.”
If you are a fan of Big Ben, you more than likely love his improvisational style of play. That’s what makes Ben a truly unique quarterback. If his game reaches a point where he’s as dangerous in the pocket as he is when he goes off script, Roethlisberger will become even more dangerous than he ever was. And he’s likely see more success because of it.