Taking Down Roethlisberger is Tough

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As the Steelers' nail-biting, no-time-left 37-36 win over the Green Bay Packers last week showed, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is very elusive.

With the final seconds ticking away, Roethlisberger escaped pressure on several occasions during a last-gasp drive. Roethlisberger even shook a potential sack to throw a game-winning 19-yard touchdown pass to receiver Mike Wallace as the clock struck 0:00.

It capped a phenomenal aerial assault, as Roethlisberger threw for a franchise-record 503 yards and three touchdowns.

This Sunday, the Ravens must bring Roethlisberger down to limit his offensive innovation.

"Ben always has it in his mind that he's always going to have to break a tackle to make a play, as you saw last week, and he's capable of doing it," said linebacker Terrell Suggs. "He's probably the only quarterback capable of doing that. Fundamental tackling will be key this week in practice."

It's no easy task, though. At 6-foot-5, 241 pounds, Roethlisberger brushes defenders off his broad shoulders. He is nimble enough to navigate the pass rush with a slight sidestep in or out of the pocket. Roethlisberger is also tough enough hold onto the ball until the last possible minute.

The Steelers offensive line has been spotty all year, as Roethlisberger has been sacked 43 times. That number would certainly have been higher without Roethlisberger's wily talents.

"Obviously, his size, a big, strong, athletic guy," said linebacker Jarret Johnson, who is tied with Trevor Pryce to lead the Ravens with six sacks. "You grab onto him and it's not like grabbing onto Brooks Bollinger or somebody else. Ben's a big dude. The other thing is, he understands his mobility.

"When he sees a free runner, he's going to stand there and let you run full speed," he continued. "He knows that all he's got to do is twist or take one or two steps – especially on that field where you can't redirect. I think it's not only his size and his athletic ability, but it's also that he's a smart guy."

Roethlisberger's presence is a major upgrade over backup Dennis Dixon, who started the first time these two teams met because of Roethlisberger's concussion-related symptoms.

"The way he plays is what makes them so good on offense," said head coach John Harbaugh. "They built their offense around his style. Obviously, they have a lot of good players on offense – playmakers at different positions. We play them a lot. He does the same thing; he plays the same way against everybody."

Suggs' performance is a big key for the Ravens' chances.

After missing three games in the middle of the season with a knee injury – including that Nov. 29 matchup with Pittsburgh – he seemed limited in the Ravens' last two contests. He hasn't tallied a sack since Week 9 against the Cincinnati Bengals. Still, Suggs believes he is rounding into shape with every snap.

And it will be difficult to keep Suggs off the field, anyway. He tallied two sacks of Roethlisberger in the AFC Championship back in January, and that was with a severely injured right shoulder. With the Ravens essentially needing to win out in order to reach the playoffs, Suggs is primed for Pittsburgh.

"It's getting a lot better as the week goes on, but it's football," Suggs said of his knee. "Football is a physical sport. It's going to hurt but sometimes, you have to play with pain. I want the Super Bowl ring bad. I'm willing to play with one leg to get it, just like I played with one shoulder."

The Ravens didn't need to see Roethlisberger's breathtaking comeback in Green Bay to be reminded of his grit in crunch time.

Roethlisberger engineered a game-winning touchdown drive in the final minutes of Super Bowl XLIII to seize the title out from under the Arizona Cardinals. Last year, he beat the Ravens in the regular season last year on a controversial touchdown pass to receiver Santonio Holmes with 0:43 remaining.

"I knew he was going to win it," Suggs said. "It was fate. No timeouts left, and it was like game over. But then I was, 'Oh, they gave him another crack at it.' He's shown that he can make a play. Last week, Super Bowl, against us. It's become repetition for him to do that."

On the season, Roethlisberger has been stellar.

Despite missing the first Ravens/Steelers game with concussion-related symptoms, he has tallied 3,849 yards, 22 touchdowns and only 11 interceptions, completing 67.7 percent of his attempts. The Steelers have thrown 475 times compared to 369 rushes this year, largely relying on Roethlisberger's arm and feet to put points on the board.

The Ravens will rely on a disciplined pass rush and sound tackling to corral Roethlisberger's game-changing limbs.

"He's a guy who handles pressure probably better than any quarterback in the league," said Harbaugh. "He can make pressure miss, he can shrug pressure off, he can throw with four guys draped on him, and throw accurately.

"He can scramble out of the pocket. So, it just can't be pressure. It's got to be very accurate pressure. It's got to be disciplined rush lanes, and we've got to tackle, not just him, [but] when the ball gets thrown out, their receivers do a great job of running after the catch. They catch and run, and they get up the field fast. So, we've got to be strong tacklers, treat the short passing game as the run game and make sure we tackle."

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