I am always pumped up after every Steelers victory. I especially enjoy the one o’clock contests because I have all afternoon after a victory to just sit back, relax, and enjoy the rest of the games the league has to offer. Sunday afternoon featured a couple of strong match ups. First up was the Saints vs. the Rams, then the Sunday Night Football game was the Packers v.s the Patriots. Both games featured a plethora of superstar players and talented squads. However, even with all the precision football on display in each contest, one play in particular stuck out in my mind.
At one point of the Packers/Patriots game, Packer’s defensive lineman Mike Daniels quickly dispatched with his blocker and had a clean run at Patriots living legend QB Tom Brady. Brady noticed Daniels barreling toward him just as he completed his drop back, thus triggering his fight or flight instinct. Brady quickly made a self preservation decision and dropped to the ground in the fetal position as Daniels flew over his quivering body. I had to chuckle seeing Brady curled up on the ground. Brady is widely regarded as the ultimate competitor, but he would never be confused as a tough guy. His motto is better to throw the ball away than take the crushing blow. Live to fight another day, or at least the next play. That philosophy has worked out pretty well for him so far in his career.
Watching Brady’s less than courageous, albeit intelligent, display brought to mind this upcoming Panthers/Steelers game and the QBs who will be leading each squad. Cam Newton and Ben Roethlisberger are not your typical QBs. They are the biggest, strongest, and toughest players at their position that the NFC and AFC have to offer.
The rules committee didn’t have these two guys in mind when the new rules designed to protect the quarterbacks were created. Cam and Ben are ultimate warriors on the field. I can’t imagine a scenario where either man would ever assume the fetal position on the battlefield. It is not in their DNA. They are abnormally large individuals who love to play the game. That is about where their similarities end.
Cam Newton has been blessed with incredible athleticism and physicality. He won the 2015 MVP Award. He is the ultimate power QB the league has ever seen. There have been plenty of dual threat QBs through the years, players like Michael Vick and Steve Young, but there has never been a QB quite like Cam Newton. He is a power runner, looking to punish any defender attempting to tackle him. He breaks tackles like a running back, which puts incredible pressure on opposing defenses, especially when they are required to turn their backs to him in man coverage. This helps their offensive line as the pass rush looks to keep him in the pocket instead of pinning their ears back without hesitation. Newton also has a cannon for an arm, so while he may still be learning to put some touch on his throws, his overall excellence is tough to contain.
What more can be said about Benjamin Todd Roethlisberger? A true gunslinger in the mold of Brett Favre and John Elway. A gladiator who has mastered the art of backyard football brilliance. The never say die, keep the play alive, make something out of nothing through the shear power of will. Ben can make you throw the remote in disgust on one series, only to jump out of your seat in ecstasy the next. There have been other QBs who have possessed similar skill sets to Big Ben, I mentioned a couple earlier, but he has one attribute that is unique to him alone. Ben has incredible size, strength, and competitiveness. Defenders marvel at this combination. Ravens LB Terrell Suggs respects Ben the warrior as much as he hates Ben the Steeler. Countless pass rushers confess they attack Ben’s throwing arm and the ball because of his propensity to shrug or shake off blitzers. Ben is a two time Super Bowl champion, a future Hall of Famer, and the face of the franchise. Ben is well respected around the league, and it was hard earned.
Thursday night’s game appears to be a interesting match up between playoff contending teams sporting impressive winning streaks. Which QB will be able to impose his will on the opposition? Which style will prove more effective in the end? Ben is the more accomplished passer for sure, and is surrounded by the more talented team. That should give the Steelers the edge in this game.
The greater concern this game lies with the Steelers defense. They have to adhere to their defensive integrity and tackling techniques. Blown assignments and missed tackles may very well decide this game.