You may have picked up on this by now, but Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is not exactly all that popular in his home state when it comes to the native professional sports teams. They show his image during Cavaliers games to elicit boos. And seemingly everybody on the Cleveland Browns is motivated to bring him down.
We have talked before about how Browns first-overall draft pick Myles Garrett talked about looking forward to bringing Roethlisberger down when the Browns play the Steelers in the season opener in 2017, which is fitting, yet ambitious talk for a player who has yet to even go up against NFL talent in a padded practice to date.
As it turns out, Garrett isn’t the only Browns pass-rusher who is motivated by hunting down Big Ben, who has gone down far less frequently in recent years than was formerly the case. While Cleveland notched four sacks against the Steelers in the 2016 regular-season finale, Roethlisberger rested in that game, as did a few other starters, including a lineman.
Desmond Bryant missed all of the 2016 season for the Browns after he suffered a torn pectoral muscle in July during a workout. Previously a rotational player, he was beginning to become more of a leader on the defense when he suddenly found himself sidelined with an injury.
It has taken him a while to get back on the football field, but he is ready to go now. “It’s a long process”, he said, “but you’re sitting on the rehab table and you’re thinking about that next time you get to get on the field and you get to see Big Ben on third down the first week of the season”, he told reporters recently.
“That was my motivation to get back”.
Not that this sort of conversation should actually be surprising in any way. For better than a decade, the Steelers have been the top dog in the division, and Roethlisberger has been the best quarterback, and the most difficult to bring down—and yet the most unwilling to give up on a play.
That has frequently made the quarterback a prized target for pass-rushers. During player interviews with opponents before virtually any Steelers game, at least one person talks about Roethlisberger and his reputation of being a tough sack, and it is usually in the context of wanting to take on that task for himself.
Bryant was a former undrafted free agent out of Harvard in 2009 who has melded somewhat between the roles of defensive end and outside linebacker. While rarely being ‘the starter’, he has managed to put up 26 sacks in his career.
One of those sacks did some against Roethlisberger, during an embarrassing 31-10 loss to the Browns in 2014. This was a surprising strong season for Cleveland, who at one point was in a three-way tie for the division lead with a 7-5 record before losing their final three games.