The question of who the Chargers would face at quarterback between the injured Ben Roethlisberger and third-string back up Charlie Batch had been up in the air all week until today when the Steelers announced a healthy Roethlisberger fit and ready to start on Sunday.
The announcement didn’t take the Chargers by surprise, even though Big Ben missed the previous three weeks due to a sprained right shoulder and dislocated rib. In fact, the team’s been game-planning for Roethlisberger the entire week.
“That’s the mindset we’ve had in terms of preparing for Ben,” said head coach Norv Turner. “You know that when he’s playing you have a complete offense. You know he keeps plays alive. We know we have to do a great job of getting pressure and wrapping up. We know the ball is going to be thrown up the field. We have to be prepared to defend the big play.”
Perhaps the biggest challenge in facing Roethlisberger at quarterback is his strength both in and out of the pocket, as the agile 6-foot-5, 241-pounder is a load to bring down.
“The thing you have to do with Ben is you have to get more than one person there,” said Turner. “That’s the key, like when you’re going after a real good back or anyone that has a special skill. It’s hard for one guy to get it done, so we’ll just have to have everyone be hustling on every play and be aware that it’s hard to get him on the ground.”
For defensive coordinator John Pagano, one word comes to mind when he thinks about Roethlisberger.
“Good lord, he’s so crafty,” said Pagano. “He’s such a proven quarterback in this league. The biggest challenge is really trying to get him down. He’s so elusive for a guy his size.”
Through nine games, Roethlisberger has completed 209 of 316 attempts for 2,877 yards, 17 touchdowns and just four interceptions. Even though he hasn’t played in a month, the Chargers still expect him to be just as lethal as ever which is why their focus is to hit him often and most importantly wrap him up when they get to him.
“I’d just like to see two guys wrap him up and hold him so he doesn’t get out of there and wait for the whistle to blow,” said Pagano. “He’s a big, very elusive quarterback. He has that knack where you see him on tape running around…Everybody’s talked about ever since I’ve been here that you’ve really got to wrap him up and be very conscious of how you’re coming in to tackle him.”