Posts Tagged ‘Big Ben’

Can Clay Matthews and the Packers Bring Down Big Ben?

The clock is ticking down to Super Bowl XLV and we are getting excited for this classic match up!  We’ve taken a look at Pittsburgh’s offense, focusing on the offensive line and the adversity it has faced this past season.  We believe that the O-line must win the battle in the trenches and allow a rushing game to develop in order for the Steelers to win.   Standing in their way is Green Bay’s defensive guru – Dom Capers.  Let’s examine Capers, some key players and the potential strategies Green Bay will use to stop Big Ben and company.

Defensive coordinator Dom Capers is considered one of the most organized and thorough coaches in the league.  He keeps volumes of notes and is a master at devising schemes that confound opposing offenses.  When he coached at Pittsburgh in 1992, he and Dick LeBeau, the Steelers’ current defensive coordinator, created and installed the 3-4 zone defense that the Steelers use today.  On Sunday, Capers and LeBeau face off against each other in a battle of defensive masterminds.  There is no doubt that both defensive coordinators will devise clever, well designed game strategies.  The game will come down to which team best executes those game plans.

In 2009, Green Bay lost to Pittsburgh 37-36.  Roethlisberger had over 500 yards passing and 3 TDs in that game.  Capers and his pressure oriented defense sacked Big Ben 5 times, but it wasn’t enough to throw the big, physical QB off of his game.  Mike Wallace also had a huge impact on that game.  He had a TD on the first play from scrimmage, as well as the game winning TD in the final seconds of the game.   Capers will likely use that 2009 game as inspiration as he draws up his 3-4, zone-blitz scheme to contain the Steelers. 

In the 2009 contest, Capers didn’t pressure Big Ben as much in the final minutes of the game because his deep coverage was falling apart and Roethlisberger was picking them apart.  He was only able to rush 3 or 4 players in the final minutes and the opportunistic Wallace scored on a 19 yard TD pass.  The Packers have cornerbacks Sam Shields and Tramon Williams to provide much better coverage than in the 2009 game, which should allow more Capers to rush more players towards the pocket and apply more pressure on Big Ben. 

Given Pittsburgh’s patchwork O-line due to injuries, Capers will look to exploit any suspected weaknesses.  With Pittsburgh standout center Maurkice Pouncey doubtful for Sunday, 6’ 2”, 337 pound nose tackle B.J. Raji is likely chomping at the bit.  Raji has become a YouTube phenomenon after he intercepted a pass in the NFC Championship game, returned it for a TD and proceeded to celebrate by dancing with his hands on his waist and wiggling his hips like he was in a hoola hoop contest.  Raji is the heaviest player to ever score a TD in post season play!  If Pouncey is out, Capers will look to disrupt his replacement – undrafted center Doug Legursky – and the dancing Raji may just be the one to cause that disruption.

Another potential mismatch exists between tenacious left outside linebacker Clay Matthews and Steelers right tackle Flozell Adams.  In last year’s game, Matthews annihilated Steelers tackle Max Starks as he sacked Big Ben twice and hit him hard three times.  Mathews also forced a fumble that eventually got overturned.  Big Ben is hard to bring down, but with Matthews’ success against him from last year, it is an advantage that Capers is sure to use, especially as he is lined up against the declining, older Adams, who is in his 13th year in the NFL.  Both Raji and Matthews will try to disrupt the pocket all game long, pressuring Big Ben and causing a potential game changing turnover in the process.

The Steelers know they will need to run the ball to win and will count on Rashard Mendenhall to carry the load.   In the AFC Championship game against the #3 ranked Jets rush defense, Mendenhall ground out 121 crucial yards.  The Packers have a run defense ranked a mediocre 18th in the league.  At first glance, that appears to give the Steelers a real advantage in running the ball.  However, Capers has deliberately designed his defense to allow opponents to gain 5 or 6 yards on 1st and 2nd down.  They use their nickel package, with 5 defensive backs on the field.  Capers’ strategy is that in passing to set up the run, this scheme gives the Packers a chance of creating an interception.  When it matters, Capers dials up a defense that stiffens to stop the run. 

Raji and tackle Ryan Pickett have been effective in stopping the inside run, which Mendenhall favors.  Matthews and linebacker A.J. Hawk will be called upon to stop Mendenhall from getting to the second line of defense.  In 2009, with much of the same defensive personnel in place, the Packers run defense ranked first in the league.  That is why the #18 ranking is so deceptive.  Capers has simply devised a different tactic that gives up short yardage on 1st or 2nd down, but can effectively stop the run on crucial third downs.

After looking at the matchup between the Steelers offense and Packers defense, we give the edge to Green Bay.  While Roethlisberger will undoubtedly make some clutch plays, we think Capers and his pressure oriented defense will slow down Big Ben’s scoring.  We also think turnovers by the Packers’ defense will play a pivotal role in the outcome of the game.  Clay Matthews missed the Associated Press’ coveted Defensive Player of the Year this season by the slimmest of margins (a mere 2 votes) to Super Bowl rival Troy Polamalu.  The relentless Matthews has something to prove and we feel he may very well be a critical factor in Super Bowl XLV.

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Steelers O-Line May be Key to 7th Super Bowl Championship

This week, as we look forward to Super Bowl XLV, we will look at each team’s offensive and defensive units and what they need to do to be successful as they appear on the biggest gridiron stage in the world!   Today, we examine Pittsburgh’s offense, including its strengths, the challenges it has faced and the keys to holding off a very talented Green Bay defense.  While Pittsburgh is known for its defensive prowess, like the lore of the Steel Curtain, offensively the Steelers must have a big day if they want to walk away with their 7th Super Bowl title.

Ben Roethlisberger is the face of Pittsburgh’s offense.  With 2 Super Bowl rings and an impressive record in post season play, he is a critical component to the Steelers’ success.  While he may not have the accuracy and poise of Peyton Manning, Big Ben can make the clutch plays needed to pull off a win.  He has grit and determination that does not quit and it is those attributes that have brought the Steelers to Super Bowl XLV. 

Big Ben’s 6’5” 240 pound frame has been essential this season.  His size and strength make it difficult for defenders to bring him down.  But Roethlisberger has faced a great deal of pressure since the offensive line has been plagued with injuries all season.  Right tackle Willie Colon was injured in July and missed the entire season.  Right guard Trai Essex missed 4 games early in the season, left tackle Max Starks was out Week 9 and left guard Chris Kemoeatu missed a game with an ankle injury as well.  Rookie center Maurkice Pouncey, the Steelers’ first round draft pick last year, is the latest misfortune to affect the O-line.  Pouncey suffered an ankle injury in the AFC Championship game and it is unlikely he will play on Sunday.

If Pouncey does indeed miss the Super Bowl, it means that right tackle Flozell Adams will be the only offensive line player to have started every game this season.  Adams is a veteran who played for the Cowboys the past 12 seasons before being released by them this year.  This is his first Super Bowl appearance and as he returns to play for the Lombardi Trophy in Cowboys Stadium, we can’t help but wonder if Jerry Jones regrets his decision to let him go.

The adversity that the Steelers’ offensive line has lived with this season would have caused many teams to fail.  Injuries forced some O-lineman to play positions they had never played before.  Despite these challenges and Roethlisberger’s 4 game suspension early in the season, the Steelers found a way to win.  Against the Packers, they will have to be able to run the ball, which could prove to be especially difficult if Pouncey is out.  But in last week’s AFC Championship game, the O-line played what was arguably its best game yet.  Rashard Mendenhall rushed for 121 yards in that game, but more importantly he consistently gets the tough, short yardage when most needed.  In post-season play, the Steelers have scored on all 6 of their first and goal situations and Mendenhall scored 3 of those TDs.

When Mendenhall isn’t being asked to grind out some yardage, Big Ben will go to the air.  Roethlisberger will no doubt be pressured by Dom Capers’ defense.  Big Ben has the ability to escape pressure, but the Packers will be relentless with their very talented defensive unit, including linebacker Clay Matthews and defensive tackle B.J. Raji. 

With a strong pass rush from the Packers, the key for Big Ben will be to get rid of the ball quickly.  He has the ability to make quick passes, especially on crucial third downs, that can prove deadly to blitzing defenses.  Roethlisberger’s downfield targets include veteran Hines Ward, who was the Super Bowl MVP in 2005.  However, look for the younger players in the receiving corps, like Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown to play bigger roles in Sunday’s game. 

As a rookie, Wallace caught the game winning TD in a 2009 game against the Packers, just as the clock expired.  This season he led Pittsburgh with over 1200 yards and 10 TDs.  In the post season, rookie receiver Brown has been more of a factor, as Wallace has been drawing double coverage.

The Steelers face an intimidating defense on Sunday orchestrated by Capers who is simply a master at disguising his schemes.  Pittsburgh’s offense will face a daunting challenge trying to read and contain the defense, but they can triumph if their offensive line plays well.  While Pittsburgh’s O-line is often criticized, it has scraped and scratched its way to success amid much adversity.  For the Steelers to win, the O-line MUST contain the Packers so that Roethlisberger is not constantly shedding off defenders all day long.  If they can step up as they did in the AFC Championship game, the running game can be established and it will allow Pittsburgh to control the clock.  A running game will also force more Packers to the line of scrimmage and open up Big Ben’s passing game.   While Roethlisberger may indeed be the face of the Steelers offense, on Sunday it will be the O-line that determines whether they win or lose.

Who’s Your Man?

Tomorrow’s AFC Championship game has two high profile quarterbacks – New York Jets QB Mark Sanchez and Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger.  When it comes to a title game, who would you rather have on your team?

 Big Ben and Mark Sanchez are light years apart in public image.  Roethlisberger’s off the field problems – careless motorcycle driving, two different accusations of sexual assault and a possible drinking problem – have given him a bad boy image.  His QB performance this season has certainly helped repair that image somewhat, but if he doesn’t take the Steelers to the Super Bowl, we have to wonder if fans will once again be reminded of his misdeeds.

Sanchez, on the other hand, has somewhat of a golden boy image.  His wholesome looks, combined with his Southern California roots, make him the perfect candidate for a Hollister ad campaign.  Not only can he pull off a sun-kissed, fun loving surfer image, but he also embraces his refined, cultural side as well.  This past summer, he appeared at the Tony Awards and introduced a song from a Broadway musical, while admitting that he is a big fan of theatre and the arts since moving to New York.  Talk about a multi-faceted personality!

Both Roethlisberger and Sanchez were first round draft picks.  Sanchez was the 5th overall pick in 2009.  When drafted, he had only 16 starts under his belt as a USC Trojan.  He started only one season, but led the Trojans to a 12-1 record and Rose Bowl Championship.  In his first year with the Jets, he took his team to the playoffs, but ultimately lost to the Colts in the AFC Championship game.  He became the 4th rookie QB in NFL history to win his first playoff game and the 2nd to win two playoff games in his rookie year.

Despite only 2 years in the NFL, Sanchez exudes the confidence of a much more experienced player.  Perhaps his poise and leadership skills can be traced to his childhood.  Sanchez’s father – a former Army Sergeant and fire department captain – believed in teaching his son how to think quickly and to be a leader.  As a child, Sanchez mastered these skills by doing drills such as dribbling a basketball without looking – while reciting multiplication tables.  Sanchez’s father would have Mark stay after practices and do these drills in order to learn how to concentrate and think fast in a pressure situation – two skills that are serving him well as the NY Jets QB.

Roethlisberger was the 11th pick in the 2004 draft.   When drafted, he had 3 years of experience playing at Miami University of Ohio.  He broke every major record at the university and dominated the Mid-American Conference as well.  Since he started playing for the Steelers in 2004, Big Ben has compiled an impressive resume, too numerous to list.  Some of his major accomplishments include 2004 Offensive Rookie of the Year, a Pro Bowl Selection in 2007, and oh, by the way, TWO Super Bowl Championships!  Big Ben was the youngest starting QB to ever win a Super Bowl.

Sanchez may have had an upbringing that helped him develop leadership and quick thinking skills.  But Roethlisberger clearly has the advantage when it comes to playoff experience, where those types of skills are truly tested.  He has a 9-2 playoff record, compared to Sanchez’s 4-1 playoff record.  Another advantage Big Ben has is his 6’5” 240 pound frame that makes him a real challenge for defenders to bring down. 

So, which QB would you want on your team tomorrow?  If we were only choosing based on likeability, Mark Sanchez – the California surfer with a love for Broadway – wins hands down.  But if we want to have the best chance of winning the game, Big Ben is our man.   His size, combined with his playoff experience, arm strength and mobility, make him our choice for this fabulous AFC Championship game.

Got Triskaidekaphobia?

Those who fear the number 13 suffer from triskaidekaphobia.  But there is no need to dread week 13 in the NFL.  In fact, for football fans it is indeed our lucky day!  There are some great games, many of which have playoff implications.  The Patriots/Jets, Giants/Redskins, Cowboys/Colts and Falcons/Bucs are some on my “must see” list. 

Perhaps the biggest Sunday matchup is tonight’s Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens AFC rivalry game.  Both teams are tied for first place in the AFC North, with 8-3 records.  In all likelihood, the winner of this game will win the AFC North and possibly a first-round bye, as well as home field advantage in the playoffs. 

The two teams met in Week 4 this season, with the Ravens scoring late in the 4th quarter to pull off a 17-14 win.  However, Steeler QB Ben Roethlisberger did not play in that game due to his suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy.

While Monday Night’s Jets/Patriots game has the glitz and glamour associated with New York and the oh-so-glossy and picture-perfect Tom Brady, tonight’s Steeler/Ravens game is good, hard PHYSICAL football.  The hatred between these two teams is palpable, so expect a smash-mouth, hard hitting game.

On paper, these two teams are statistically even.  But there are many factors that will come into play and will likely determine the outcome.  Here is a look at a few of them…

  • Remember the movie, “The Blind Side”?  Well, the real life Michael Oher is the Ravens starting left tackle and his job is to protect his QB Joe Flacco’s blind side.  Oher left last week’s game against the Bucs with an injury and so his condition for tonight’s game is questionable.
  • The BEN –e-factor…  Big Ben has been seen wearing a protective boot on his injured foot this week.  But the fact remains that with him in the game, the Steelers are 7-2 against the Ravens.  Hurt or not, Roethlisberger is a definite compelling force in this heated rivalry game.  As the nation’s 5th ranked passer, he will certainly lead a much different offense than the week 4 game.
  • The Steelers run defense is ranked number one in the country.   While Ravens RB Ray Rice has had success against the Steeler’s defense, the Ravens will need to go to the air to pull off a victory.
  • The Steelers pass defense is vulnerable.  If Flacco can read the coverage in the secondary, he has the chance to exploit this weakness.
  • The NFL has fined Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison four times this season, for a total of $125,000, for illegal hits.  Some of those calls have been questionable.  We hope that the NFL’s scrutiny of Harrison does not restrain his intensity and ultimately affect his game.
  • The Ravens host tonight’s game and the Steelers have struggled on the road.  Meanwhile, Baltimore holds the longest current home winning streak in the NFL.  A home field advantage could truly be a factor in this game.  

If you love good, old fashioned, knock em’ down football, this is the game for you!  Pittsburgh and Baltimore’s blue-collar fans bring an enthusiasm and fervor to the game unmatched in the NFL.  So tune in tonight for a clash that will have you jumping out of your seat!  This Week 13 game will cure your triskaidekaphobia and make you feel lucky to have such a great rivalry game to enjoy.

It’s Week 9 and Oh What a Season it has Been!

Here we are, in week 9 of the NFL schedule, which means we are half way through the regular season!  Time flies when you’re having fun.  As we reflect on what has unfolded in the NFL thus far, we were inspired to say it with poetry.  (Don’t ask why, frankly, we really don’t know)

 

The NFL season is already half completed

Some of our teams have won, others were defeated

Players have been benched, a few were even traded

Coaches have been praised, a few are truly hated

So at this point in the season, we look at where things stand

One thing we know for certain, this season has not been bland!

 

The great and mighty Saints were expected to be dominant

But here in 2010, they’re not so prominent!

The trendy “who dat” slogan was such a catchy phrase

 But the way the Saints are playing, was it only just a phase?

So as New Orleans struggles to find a way to win

Will another team replace them as America’s new darlin’?

 

All throughout the league, quarterbacks are making news

With so many controversies, it’s easy to feel confused

In Philly, Vick was out…then in..then out again

The Steelers had their own QB troubles – the behavior of Big Ben

McNabb was benched for Grossman, a decision that boggles the mind

Grossman fumbled his first play, and the Redskins fell behind!

 

The Vikings made a trade to pick up Randy Moss

Four short weeks later, they gave him quite the toss

Randy’s open praise of his former coach and team

Caused coach Childress fury and to fire him it seems

Randy’s now a Titan, playing in Tennessee

Will he find a home there?  Or will he have to flee?

 

Jerry Jones’ Cowboys now stand at one and six

How does this happen to a pre-season Superbowl pick?

The Bills are once again at the bottom of the pile

Will frosty Buffalo fans ever find reason to smile?

The Panthers and 49ers are also down this year

Their fans are not celebrating, but drowning in cold beer

 

The Patriots are once again winning, doing it with flair

Even with Tom Brady and his Justin Bieber-like long hair

The Giants and the Falcons are tied for first in the NFC

Who will win their division?  We will have to wait and see

The Ravens, Chiefs and Colts seem to be true contenders

While the Jets, Packers and Steelers may just end up pretenders

 

The season’s only half way through, there’s lots more games to play

Some teams will continue to win, some may go astray

Football is a game of inches, so the saying goes

It’s a game that can’t be predicted, as any true fan knows

So enjoy the “second half”, it will be an adventurous ride

It’s what makes football the greatest game – that cannot be denied!

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