It sounds so fundamental and elementary—get to the opposing QB before he can get to you…
But with Big Ben Roethlisberger, it's easier said than done…
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is listed at 6-foot-5 and 241 pounds but appears to weigh more than 260. He probably is bigger than Eagles defensive ends Trent Cole (6-3, 270 pounds) and Jason Babin (6-3, 267) and other members of the defense that will try to sack him.
"Arm tackles are not going to get it done," Cole said. "Grabbing one leg or something won't work, or trying to sack him with one arm. Most quarterbacks, you probably can do that, but with him you can't."
Roethlisberger also is off to the best start of his nine-year career. He enters the game ranked second in the NFL with a 109.2 quarterback efficiency rating. Only Atlanta's Matt Ryan (112.1) is higher.
Roethlisberger also has done a good job of protecting the football. Through three games, the 30-year-old has completed 82-of-120 passes (68.3 percent) for 904 yards and eight touchdowns against just one interception. Only Ryan (69.2 completion percentage) has been more accurate, and of the quarterbacks who have attempted at least 120 passes, Minnesota's Christian Ponder is the only who has yet to throw an interception.
"He does a lot of things well, but the one thing he does a great job with is that he extends plays," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "He's very strong in the pocket, and he has mobility. He always keeps his eyes down the field. If you have that one quality that is a little different than some of the other quarterbacks, he keeps every play alive. As a secondary player, you better continue to cover your player until the play is history and it's over, or he's going to make you pay for it."
Roethlisberger hasn't been untouchable this season. A porous offensive line has surrendered nine sacks. But that total would be even higher if not for his size, strength and awareness.
If one of his receivers isn't immediately open, he has no qualms about waiting until someone breaks free, even if it means absorbing an extra hit or two.
"I have no intention of trying to extend a play; it just happens that way," Roethlisberger said in a phone interview. "It comes from not ever wanting to quit. I hate to quit on a play or on my team. I don't want to give up a sack and I'm always going to fight for extra yards. Sometimes it can demoralize a defense when you fight through a sack or you extend a play and pick up a first down. That's tough on a defense. But it's just never wanting to quit."
"Getting him down is not going to be easy," Eagles rookie linebacker Mychal Kendricks said. "That's a big dude."
The Steelers have something else going for them this week — the return of a couple of All-Pro defenders, safety Troy Polamalu and outside linebacker James Harrison, sidelined by a strained calf and sprained knee, respectively. Polamalu, in particular, shines in a system that allows him the freedom to rush the passer.
"He's a heck of a player," Reid said of Polamalu. "You're talking about a Pro Bowl player. You have to know where he's at. Harrison, you have to know where he is at. Those are two good football players."
Said Brent Celek: "Those guys are playmakers. Polamalu is all over the field and you've got to be ready for him to come from anywhere on any play. And Harrison is obviously an amazing pass rusher. So, to have those two guys back …"
Welp, it's good to have a healthy respect for your opponent. Keeps you grounded and within your own game plan…
"It's going to be a tough matchup against Pittsburgh this week,'' Vick said. "It's always a tough matchup any time you play them on the road. Their record at home is outstanding. But that's what it's all about, two good teams clashing head to head and we just have to find a way to come out on top."
A big step in that direction would be to find a way to block those blitzing defensive backs you know are coming after Vick, or make them pay for their gamble. More than anything, the Eagles realize the Steelers are going to come out swinging and they have to be ready to swing back.
"I just know it's going to be a physical game, it's going to be a battle,'' Celek said. "We've got to be ready to go, be ready to whoop it up."
Yeah, the Steelers are going to show blitz and bring it a lot against Vick. That's just defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau's way of saying "Hi—Welcome to Pittsburgh!"… Plus, LeBeau basically taught the Cardinals' new DC Ray Horton everything he knows about blitz pressure during the 7 years Horton was the Steelers' defensive backs coach—and we saw what the Cardinals' defense did against the Eagles a couple of weeeks ago. LeBeau took notes, no doubt, and he'll be be sending corners as well as linebackers and safeties, not only through the A-gap but also through and around the tackles…
"When something works, as it did with the Cardinals blitzing us, teams are going to keep trying it against you,'' Eagles tight end Celek said. "If they don't, if would be kind of foolish. You always have to be ready for things that other teams did against you and were successful with."
Linebacker Akeem Jordan (strained hamstring) will not play against the Steelers. Jamar Chaney will make his second straight start at weakside linebacker. … Safety Colt Anderson (hyperxtended knee), guard/tackle King Dunlap (strained hamstring) and defensive tackle Derek Landri (knee inflammation) are questionable. Anderson and Landri are expected to play. Demetress Bell likely will start at left tackle in place of Dunlap again. … Wide receiver Riley Cooper (broken collarbone) might make his season debut.