GREEN BAY, Wis. – Linebacker Desmond Bishop says the Packers began preparing for Ben Roethlisberger by watching video of how not to bring down the Steelers’ big quarterback.
The lowlight package put together by Green Bay defensive coordinator Dom Capers featured other teams, but it also could have included the Packers as they work toward their matchup with Roethlisberger and Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl on Feb. 6.
“I’m sure it could have lasted longer,” Bishop said of the video. “A lot of guys are going for his pump fakes or not wrapping up fully when they have him.
“It’s just a mental or a subliminal note that when you get your opportunity to get him, you got to hit, you got to wrap up and bring all your technique and all your weight with you, because he’s definitely a big guy to bring down.”
That’s just the mental aspect. The Packers also remember the physical toll in last year’s matchup.
Green Bay sacked Roethlisberger five times but missed several other opportunities as he threw for a career-best 503 yards and three touchdowns in a wild 37-36 victory.
“We had five sacks, but, man, we could have had him down 10 times. He’s tough to tackle,” defensive end Ryan Pickett said. “He’s a good quarterback. And he breaks more tackles than any running back I’ve seen.”
“I counted,” Capers said. “We had five sacks and a chance at five, a legitimate chance at five other sacks. But it was just basically him being Ben, you know, where we missed him or we hit him and came off of him.”
The timely video review was meant to remind the Packers that there are no easy ways to bring a 6-foot-5, 241-pound person to the ground.
That’s why Roethlisberger has been compared to a fullback, a running back and a lineman by the Packers’ defense this week. Then again, it’s unlikely players at those other positions would be able to absorb the contact Roethlisberger and zip a deep pass downfield seconds later.
“He has the arm to step up, roll to his right, and still make the 60-plus throw,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “One of our objectives is to make sure when we have the opportunity to get him on the ground.”
Packers linebacker Clay Matthews sacked Roethlisberger twice in last year’s game, only to watch the quarterback throw a 19-yard TD pass to Mike Wallace to win the game as time expired.
Players and coaches say there is a technique for tackling the Steelers’ quarterback – hit him between his chest and knees, then wrap up and hold on until he goes down or the whistle blows.
Bet on the whistle.
“You see quarterbacks who sometimes go down easily, and you can bring him down. But he’s one of those guys who will fight and gets out of a lot of sacks, and the sacks that he does give up, he’s still standing,” Matthews said. “We’ve got to stay alive, really get after him, and kind of collapse the pocket on him, and force him to not be able to complete those passes where he moves around and breaks tackles.”
Roethlisberger can also scramble or put his head down and run just enough to keep defenders off-balance.
His long gain is 31 yards this year, and he’s often the best bet in shortage yardage situations, gaining five first downs in the two playoff games.
“If you go back to his college tape, he had runs of 50, 60 yards in games. When you see a man of that dimension able to finish scramble runs, I don’t care what level and so on, I’ve always considered him a good athlete,” McCarthy said. “More importantly, he’s a big man. I don’t know exactly what he weighs but he is someone that we need to do a better job this time around learning off last year’s experience.”
And while no one is mistaking the Steelers’ quarterback as a dynamic scrambler like Michael Vick, the Packers say it is equally as hard to duplicate Roethlisberger in practice.
Packers cornerback Charles Woodson said they can’t fall for Roethlisberger’s pump fakes.
“You can’t just go full speed and reckless,” Woodson said. “You’ve got to kind of break down and be ready to move either way with the quarterback. Because it doesn’t take much for a quarterback to just step one foot forward or step one foot back, and you’ll miss him completely.
“So you’ve got to come with some sort of controlled aggression, once you get to the quarterback. And when you get your hands on him, you can’t let go. He’s got to go down.”
“Not many people have the answer to how you get him down. That’s why he’s been to, what, three Super Bowls the last six years? It’s tough,” Pickett said.