Film Room: Big Ben Burns Bengals’ Blitz

One of the criticisms that Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has received over the course of the past few seasons is that he is not nearly as mobile as he used to be, which means that he cannot make the same sort of plays with his legs after an initial play breaks down while he is under pressure.

Going by his performance against the Cincinnati Bengals last week when they blitzed him, however, you would hardly know it, as he and the offense were incredibly successful when they tried to send extra rushers at him. Naturally, the offensive line and the rest of his blockers play a big role in this as well

The Bengals tried to send six rushers after Roethlisberger on third and two late in the first quarter, but the Steelers foiled the rush by rolling him out to his left. He easily completed a pass while on the move to Antonio Brown for a nine-yard conversion.

Later on the same drive, Vontaze Burfict blitzed, but Ramon Foster completely shut him down. The Steelers were facing a second and 21, but Roethlisberger had time to drop back and read the field, finding JuJu Smith-Schuster getting open deep for 22 yards.

Some of the highlights of the game also came against the blitz, including the bit 29-yard catch by Smith-Schuster over Darqueze Dennard down to the one-yard line. The Bengals rushed five again, sending Preston Brown on a stunt, but Roethlisberger needed only a three-step drop to find his target down the right sideline.

Into the third quarter, he continued to connect with the second-year wide receiver when facing the blitz, the Bengals rushing five and using confusion to try to pressure Roethlisberger. Thanks to the interior help and the blitz pickup of James Conner, however, Roethlisberger had plenty of time to read the field and hit his man for 13 yards on third and eight.

A blitz by Vincent Rey left an open zone over the middle of field, where Antonio Brown quickly occupied, Roethlisberger finding him for a long catch and run of 48 yards, one of the Steelers’ staple blitz-beating routes.

Oh, and then there was the game-winner. Cincinnati knew it wasn’t getting home all day (they didn’t register any sacks), so they tried sending seven. Roethlisberger saw this all the way and motioned Brown inside to work behind a rub route.

You don’t have to be particularly athletic to beat the blitz consistently. It helps to have great pass protection, but knowing what you’re seeing and how to counter it is far more important than any other one factor.

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