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Big Ben Chimes In On Offense, Sack Totals, and HC Mike Tomlin

"I feel great, which is awesome, as good as I've ever felt."
Strong statement, and encouraging news from Ben Roethlisberger, as he prepares at the Steelers practice facility for his first ever Pro-Bowl. For a man who was sacked 47 times in 2007, it's certainly encouraging to hear that Roethlisberger's health is in tact as he heads to Honolulu and then into the offseason.

As has been the case throughout the year, Roethlisberger defended his linemen and justified the unacceptably high sack total:

"You have to look at it in perspective. You have to look at it as there are times I'm holding the ball too long because I'm trying to make plays. Sometimes when I can throw it away, I'm going to try to prolong a play. Coach Tomlin and I had that talk in that [end of the season] meeting -- you have to live with those sacks sometimes because sometimes I'm going to double pump. The sack total to me is skewed. If I threw it away or get it out of my hands right away like I should, then the sack number drops. I'm trying to make plays and we live by that sword and we die by it as well. We may lose 10 yards but we might get how many touchdowns by it as well."
There most certainly is an element of truth to what Big Ben is saying. Take a look at Drew Brees' sack total this year in New Orleans. He was sacked 16 times I believe, despite setting an NFL record for pass attempts in a season. How did he do it? Is his line great? There are some good players on the Saints line, namely Jamal Brown and Jahri Evans. But from top to bottom, I don't think anybody would rate it a top-5 O-line. The reason Brees is sacked so few times despite constantly dropping back to pass is he gets rid of the ball ridiculously quickly. So do Manning and Brady. It's what good QBs learn to do. Though I will say that none of those three QBs has the play-making ability with their legs that Big Ben does. I don't want to see Ben abandon his penchant for trying to make plays outside the pocket, but I'd also like to see him, at times, learn to throw it away when nothing's there, especially if we're going to be an offense that continues to throw the ball more in the Arians/Tomlin era.

And from the sound of it, we will be throwing it more in the future:

"We're kind of keeping up with the league," Roethlisberger said. "The league is always evolving and offenses are always changing. Right now the offenses around the league -- in terms of who wins -- are pass-dominant offenses. We have started to turn that corner a little bit.

I'm not saying that we're going to throw the ball 80 times a game, but we have turned that corner in terms of keeping up with the league."

And finally, what does Big Ben think about Mike Tomlin and the job he did in Pittsburgh in his first year ever as a head coach, at any level:
"He let his coordinators coordinate, and he got a lot of respect from the guys for that. Nothing against Bill, but it's nice when your coordinator's telling you he's not scared about the ramifications of a coach yelling at him.

I think he did good. He had to walk a fine line, being a younger guy and trying to be friends but not be friends, trying to be strict but not too strict. He had to walk a fine line his first year. I think it's only going to improve and the relationships he's going to have and the respect guys are going to have will get better. He's going to learn from everything too, just like we do."

Ben raises a good point when he mentions the fine line Tomlin had to walk this year. It can't be easy for a man as young as Tomlin to come in and command respect in the wake of a Super Bowl winning coach like Bill Cowher. Heck, a number of the players are barely his juniors. But he did command respect, and he did leave his mark on the team, while allowing his coordinators to do their thing and not entirely disrupting the fundamental makeup of a team only two years removed from a Super Bowl win.

Tomline and Roethlisberger both have plenty to learn and room to evolve in the coming years. If Tomlin is anything like Big Ben, I think we can expect even bigger and better things to come, perhaps sooner than we might expect.