Saturday, October 11, 2014

Cleveland Browns front seven vs. Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger -- Sunday Showdown preview

By Branson Wright, The Plain Dealer 
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on October 10, 2014 at 11:50 AM, updated October 10, 2014 at 11:51 AM


The Browns hope to consistently get their hands on Ben Roethlisberger on Sunday. (Joshua Gunter / The Plain Dealer)

BEREA, Ohio -- Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's dominance over the Cleveland Browns is well documented.

Roethlisberger, a native of Findlay, Ohio, is 18-1 against the Browns. His last defeat was here in Cleveland in 2009. Eight sacks were the key to the Browns success.

A similar defensive effort on Sunday is probably too much to ask, but consistent pressure on one of the most elusive quarterbacks in the game gives the Browns a better chance to snap Roethlisberger's dominance.

The type of pressure on Roethlisberger generated by the Browns front seven of linebackers and defensive linemen is the focus of The Plain Dealer's weekly key matchup. On Sunday, we'll break down the matchup live at the end of each quarter on and wrap up the battle following the game with reaction from the locker room.

The Browns got to Roethlisberger four times in the season opener with a sack each by defensive ends Paul Kruger, Armonty Bryant and linebackers Jabaal Sheard and Chris Kirksey.

Of course it wasn't enough.

The Browns rallied from a huge first-half deficit but Roethlisberger was Roethlisberger when it counted. He avoided the rush and drove the Steelers down field. His biggest play was 20-yard pass to Markus Wheaton to set up the field goal for the winner. Roethlisberger finished with 365 yards and one TD.

Roethlisberger extended plays with an elusiveness that is almost in slow motion, but enough to elude the rush. And if a defender is fortunate enough to get a grasp on Big Ben, he has the knack to shake loose and often convert a big play.

Browns coach Mike Pettine is all too familiar with Roethlisberger's moves.

"He's still the same old guy," said Pettine, who faced Roethlisberger while an assistant coach with the Baltimore Ravens and Buffalo Bills. "You see him falling down, flipping a ball forward, or the throw he made against us in Week 1 is a perfect example – got out of the pocket and threw it to a spot in the end zone where the only one that could get it was his own guy."

Linebacker Craig Robertson has not sacked Roethlisberger, but he has a clue on what he will do when given the chance.

"He's a big guy and you'll bounce off him if you don't come with all of your weight," Robertson said. "He finds ways to get the ball off. He's like a magician because he'll make you miss and still throw a perfect ball. I've seen guys have a perfect shot at Ben but he'll see it, spin away and get the ball off."

Linebacker Karlos Dansby could not recollect the first time he sacked Roethlisberger but he's certain Big Ben is in his career collection of 39 sacks, and even if he isn't, Dansby knows what to expect.

"Ben's a crafty guy," Dansby said. "He can shake you off, give you the little 'whoopsy do' and get around you. When you do [get a hold of him] he has the spin-out move so you can't fall for the okey-doke."

The Browns will get another shot at Big Ben on Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium. The front seven will have to make a few adjustments due to defensive end Phil Taylor's knee surgery, and possible injuries that could limit or sideline linemen Billy Winn and Kruger. Linebackers Robertson, Dansby, Sheard, Kirskey and Barkevious Mingo, as of now, are all available.

But no matter which players will fill in on the line or join the linebacker group, the possible absence of cornerback Joe Haden will add more pressure to the front seven. Often defensive backs help generate sacks because of their tight coverage, but that may not be the case if Haden is out or slowed due to a hip injury.

The Browns are at least encouraged because the Steelers offensive line has allowed nine sacks in the past two games.

"It's very important that we get to him," Dansby said. "It's a must. If we don't, he can pick you apart."


Browns defensive front seven

Numbers: This unit has seven of the team's eight sacks, and 116 of the team's 274 tackles.

Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger 

School: Miami of Ohio

Ht/Wt: 6-5, 241

Numbers: Roethlisberger has won 18 of 19 against the Browns. His only loss came in 2009 when he was sacked eight times.

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