Rex Ryan, for all the bluster he infuses in his press conferences, is pretty straight forward in his press conferences. And when asked about attempting to sack Ben Roethlisberger, he was blunt: it might not happen.
“We have some guys, quite honestly, I don’t know if we can bring him down,” Ryan told reporters yesterday.
He wouldn’t be the first coach with that fear. Though Roethlisberger’s game has evolved more than what some are willing to give him credit for, he’s still a 6’5, 240+ pound quarterback and on paper, is one of the biggest skill players on the field. That makes it a challenge for any linebacker or blitzing defensive back to take him down, something that’s still evident in 2016.
Ryan knows it well from his time as the defensive coordinator from the Baltimore Ravens; #7 is a tough guy to bring down. It creates a unique approach to defending him. One that emphasizes creating turnovers even moreso than the tackle.
“There’s other ways to combat that. We got to go after the football. That’s one way. I remember I had a little nickel who weighed about 175 pounds who had two or three sacks against him. He couldn’t tackle him but he was able to knock the ball out.”
If Ryan is referencing his Baltimore days, he’s likely talking about Corey Ivy, a cornerback who had three sacks against Pittsburgh from 2006 to 2008.
Ryan also mentioned the relatively obvious when it comes to Ben. The coverage must hold up longer than usual.
“We got to keep our coverage. You gotta plaster in the back end. You know how good this guy is at extending plays. He’s been that way for years.”
The Steelers will have a similar challenge against Tyrod Taylor, an ultra-athletic quarterback capable of keeping the play alive for what feels like forever. But tackling him once you get your hands on him is a bit easier than Roethlisberger.
I don’t think any of it is shocking to Steelers’ Nation. But Ryan might be the first coach to wave the white flag before the game’s even started.