Over the last several years, there has been plenty of debate as to how many sacks Ben Roethlisberger takes because of his tendency to hold the ball, and how many he saves by his ability to shrug off tacklers. Instead of guessing, I’ve decided this year to keep track week by week.
So consider this the first edition of the “Roethlisberger Count.”
Against the Browns, Roethlisberger was not sacked, so obviously there are no sacks to blame on him. But there by my count were two sacks that he saved.
The first came with 14:19 to go in the second quarter. Matt Roth came unblocked on a screen play that turned into a five-yard Roethlisberger run. With a free run at the quarterback less than two seconds after the snap, Roth appeared to have an easy sack, but Roethlisberger pump faked, which got Roth to jump up. Roethlisberger then stepped up and took off for a five-yard run.
The second came with 10:54 in the second quarter. Doug Legursky was beaten by Scott Fujita, who came in and forced Roethlisberger to dodge him roughly 2.6 seconds after the snap. That drove him into Jonathan Scott’s man (who appears to be Matt Roth). Roth wrapped up Roethlisberger’s legs. Roethlisberger stayed upright, and using just his arm, threw the ball away for an incomplete pass.
I’m trying to be strict about what qualifies as a sack saved. There were several other plays where Roethlisberger did an excellent job of getting rid of the ball before the pass rush arrived (he was pressured on 14 of his 27 passes), but that’s part of the job of an NFL quarterback.
And if Roethlisberger held the ball for longer than normal, he doesn’t get credit for shrugging off a sack. For instance, with 5:18 to go in the second quarter. Legursky was again beaten by his man, as Chris Gocong shot through nearly unblocked on a delayed blitz. Roethlisberger managed to dodge him, and again threw the ball away. But Gocong didn’t come close to Roethlisberger until 3.5 seconds after the snap — normally a quarterback gets the ball away before three seconds have elapsed, so that doesn’t count as a saved sack, even though Roethlisberger managed to throw the ball with three Browns hitting him.
It’s worth noting that Roethlisberger also managed to throw a second-quarter touchdown pass to Mike Wallace, and a 50-yarder to Wallace in the third quarter with an unblocked blitzer getting ready to lay a massive hit. Roethlisberger has always shown a fearlessness about being hit. Thankfully last Sunday he also showed a new willingness to throw the ball away or dump it off underneath as well.