Earlier in his career, it was a matter of if and not when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger would get hurt, often standing in the pocket and holding onto the football far too long. We all know when plays break down, so does the protection and a lot of times the best way out of it is improvisation, where Roethlisberger is arguably the best in the league at making something out of nothing. But with the good sometimes came the bad, and one can look back over his career at the myriad of injuries he’s suffered as a result of his backyard-football style.
When offensive coordinator Todd Haley was brought on board in 2012, much was made of the pairing of teacher and pupil with the two. Roethlisberger already had two Super Bowl rings at the time, so as the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” However, with the front office intent on keeping Ben upright, they hired an offensive mind whose philosophy was built on a quick passing game, and making yards after the catch. A bit of a scapegoat for the offense’s underachieving status in his first two seasons, it wasn’t until Haley’s third year in 2014, that the two began writing a masterful symphony of offensive music.
Coincidentally enough, last year Roethlisberger was given a bit more room to roam, and the offense went as he did, finding that fine line of balance that guided to the principles of Haley’s playbook but also allowing Ben to “free-lance” when need be.
“That’s the one thing you can’t really measure, that intangible, the ability to scramble and make plays,” said guard David DeCastro, according to Jeremy Fowler, an ESPN NFL writer. “Sometimes you have to block a little longer and that’s OK. That’s our job.”
Roethlisberger responded in a big way, throwing for a league co-leading 4,952 yards and 32 touchdowns, with only 9 interceptions. In a two-week span of late October into November versus the Colts and Ravens, respectively, he threw for 862 yards, 12 touchdowns and 0 picks, including 522 yards and 6 touchdowns versus Indy on October 26.
By doing so, he placed himself in an elite club, or perhaps a lonely one, as the only quarterback in NFL history with multiple 500-yard passing games. All doing so while working within the “confines”, if you will, of Haley’s system. As previously stated, a staple of Haley’s offense is yards after the catch, meaning despite Roethlisberger’s 6-foot-5, 241-pound frame, his durability doesn’t need to be tested as much as in seasons past.
“Guys are getting younger and faster, and I am not getting any faster,” Roethlisberger said, according to Fowler. “If I don’t have to run around, I don’t.”
Heading into 2015, Roethlisberger notes that he wants the exact same results as the 2014 season, and with a bit more seasoning on players such as wide receivers Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton, coupled with rookie speedster, Sammie Coates, and he may get exactly what he was wishing for, as the offense is poised to put up even better numbers than last season. Trust is a key factor in any type of relationship, and it’s one that Haley and Roethlisberger also are on the same page with. Just like a fine wine, as they say, it gets better with age, and the Roethlisberger/Haley marriage will look to continue churning out more of the same, and better, in years to come.