In the days leading up to a rivalry game, you'll find that teams will react in a number of different ways when referring to their opponent. Some teams and their players resort to trash talking (cough, Bart Scott, cough, Terrell Suggs) against the opposing team and even go as far as guaranteeing a victory. Others, like Bill Belichick, remain tight-lipped and never tip their hand, trying to keep every possible advantage. And yet, even other members take the high road and and get to gushing over their rival. Jets head coach Rex Ryan has seemed to master two of these three arts.
Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis employed the latter tactic when recently speaking about the Pittsburgh Steelers and their quarterback to the Cincinnati Enquirer. He recently sounded off on their archrival's quarterback and didn't shy away from giving him some lofty compliments:
"He is totally the catalyst of their offense and their football team," Lewis said Thursday, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer. "He makes (linebacker) Derrick Johnson miss in the pocket last week and throws a perfect pass to a very well-covered tight end. He extends the play enough that the tight end was able to come open late, and he makes a perfect pass where only one guy can catch it. Those are things that maybe go unnoticed at times but are truly fine football plays."
Though this is a fairly obvious observation by Lewis, it is very true. "Big Ben" makes a number of big plays by extending things as they break down around him. In fact, it seems that Ben makes more plays via ad-lib than a traditional passer would in the pocket.
But, with his ability to make plays by running around, Roethlisberger takes his share of hits and sacks. Bengals defensive lineman Frostee Rucker has taken notice of that, expanding off of Lewis' comments and basically saying that sacks and consistent pressure are the only ways to disrupt Ben's playmaking ability. Taking a look back at 2009, which was the last time the Bengals beat Pittsburgh, it was pressure, sacks and tipped passes that helped lead them to victory.
Perhaps what Lewis meant by his statement is something a little less obvious. Take a look at the transition that the Steelers have undergone since Roethlisberger's reign. For most of the 1990s and early 2000s, the Steelers were a "ground and pound" type of squad with a stout defense and tough running game. While those attributes still ring true today, their days of having merely a caretaker quarterback are over. They can put up a lot of points through the air and move downfield quickly.