Ben Roethlisberger Learning How To Avoid Unnecessary Hits

By Matthew Marczi

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has earned a reputation over the years for extending plays beyond what the average quarterback would be willing to do, and rightfully so. Frequently, his ability to extend the play results in a big gain down the field, because a defensive back can only track a receiver for so long before something breaks down.

Often, however, it has just resulted in Roethlisberger taking yet another unnecessary hit. The tenth-year veteran already holds the distinction of having been sacked significantly more than anybody else in the league since his rookie season.

Yet it is also true that Roethlisberger has gotten better at preventing these unnecessary negative plays. It was a directive sent down in earnest from team president Art Rooney II and emphasized by new offensive coordinator Todd Haley last season.

However, it actually began in earnest the year before, when the team as a whole gave up a combined 59 sacks and hits on the quarterback, which, in recent years, is a low figure, considering there were years of Roethlisberger being sacked nearly that many times over the course of a season.

Pro Football Focus tracks not only sacks, hits, and hurries on the quarterback, but also who surrenders them, and they include the quarterback in that blame game. For 2011, the site credits Roethlisberger for two of his own sacks and for being responsible for being hurried on three other instances on nearly 600 passing snaps.

In 2012, Roethlisberger is credited with forfeiting two sacks, two hits, and two hurries in 511 drop backs, which is somewhat more than the year before, but is still an improvement upon earlier seasons.

Roethlisberger had an awful hard time of things keeping himself upright since his rookie season, but it got even worse as many of the team’s pedigreed linemen, such as Alan Faneca and Jeff Hartings, left the team.

2008 is when things really started coming apart along the offensive line, when the team surrendered 52 sacks and another 41 hits, to go along with 130 hurries. That year, Roethlisberger dropped back 552 times, and in his efforts to make plays, he gave himself up for a sack on four occasions and was hurried two other times.

This was the same year that center Justin Hartwig gave up 11 sacks and eight hits all by himself, which may well be historically poor numbers from the center position, so it is amazing that Roethlisberger even had enough time to put himself in positions that left him with the primary blame for having been sacked a few times.

It only got worse over the course of the next two seasons. In 2009, in just over 600 drop backs, he was blamed for nine of his own sacks, to go along with another hit and a hurry. He missed the first four games of the 2010 season, and yet he still put himself in position to be sacked unnecessarily seven times, and relinquished two hits and a hurry on three other occasions on his 455 passing plays.

It is certainly a good thing that Ben Roethlisberger has gained a greater understanding of how to safely extend plays as the years go on, as it should help him to extend his career by avoiding a great number of unnecessary hits. Of course, as the offensive line gets better, he should also have less cause to descend into sandlot mode with such frequency.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi
Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • TJimmy

    Sandlot football is great entertainment, but bad for Ben’s health and thus the success of the team. Hopefully the O-line will stay healthy enough for less sandlot and more pocket passing.

  • steeltown

    Balanced attack, the run game needs to get going this season

  • Shea Fahr

    I am happy to have Ben as a QB but let’s be honest. If you give him 10 seconds, he will try to get 2 or 3 more. It does not matter how average or good the Oline is. That is just Ben’s style of play. I do not see him changing his style at all.

  • Mike.H

    Not to criticize Ben, often times he’s in FG range, yet he takes a sack and at the end, lose by a FG… frustrating.

  • Mkeller

    The older he gets the harder to change it will be. He got hurt against the Chiefs last yr scrambling on a 3 step drop. Who does that? I love it. Its what makes him who he is. Just like the RGIII’s and Vicks of the world. its great when they’re healthy and making plays and it sucks when they’re hurt. Its all part of the risk of having them. You think Vick at this point of his career is going to just flip a switch and become a reader of defenses? Probably not and the same is likely for Ben. Two super bowl wins and a 3rd appearance…as far as I’m concerned anything more from Ben and we’re in bonus time.

  • Mkeller

    Yes he does and it is frustrating. But its part of the deal with him. You always want him to be situational smart but in his mind he’s thinking first down or TD. In his mind he’s being smart by being aggressive. The dude is a roller coaster.

  • Kenneth Wilt

    The running game is HUGE for this team. The Oline MUST get us a running game. I actually think the 4 receivers we have this year might actually be an upgrade to last year, but keeping the guys off the QB is HUGE and that is accomplished by play action and running the ball effectively. Look at Ben’s stats when running play action this preseason. It will show you how important it is.

  • steeltown


  • charles

    What Ben can change for the better without changing his style is to prepare better. Tomlin alluded to this at the beginning of last year and said Ben was ‘starting to realize the importance of doing his homework’. Ben could be a little more (ugh) like Manning or Brees. It would be great to see him attack the defenses a little more.

  • Matthew Marczi

    I don’t believe he’s actually changed, I just think he’s gotten better at doing what he does by avoiding more hits…which is actually the best of both worlds. Hope I’m right and that he keeps it up.


    It is huge, but I’ve said for some time now that I don’t think PIT will be a SF type pound it team with Ben @ QB…being able to run it in the RZ and short yardage will make big, big difference in scoring opportunities…I got sick of seeing Ben in shotgun on 3&2 so often LY…the running game will make playaction that much better.


    Agreed…just his nature to extend the play if his 1st or 2nd read isn’t open…not sure if he ever gets to his 3rd read though the way the OL has played.


    I can agree with that, but Ben got a LOT of pressure up the gut LY and for QBs who like to step up into the pocket to buy time pressure up the middle is almost always bad.