clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Ben Roethlisberger, and the anatomy of the ‘Pump Fake’

A skill often overlooked, Ben Roethlisberger has become a master in the art of deceiving defenses, with a move he has perfected.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

When we evaluate quarterbacks, the one skill set that is often neglected is the pump fake. The pump fake is a skill that only few quarterbacks can execute, but if done correctly, has the ability to change the course of a game. Perhaps to better understand this, we should perhaps understand why the pump fake is a useful skill for quarterbacks.

Most defensive backs read the eyes of the quarterback in order to anticipate where a they are going to throw. A good pump fake can draw defenders away from the actual spot that a quarterback intends to throw. When it comes to this skill, no quarterback in the NFL can excute this like Ben Roethlisberger. Over the years, Roethlisberger has been able to execute the pump fake in such a way that deceives an entire defense on the field.

One criteria required to execute the pump fake is hand size. It is no secret that Roethlisberger’s has some of the biggest hands among NFL quarterbacks. With this noted, Roethlisberger is able to execute two types of pump fakes: The soft fake and The hard fake.

The Soft Fake


In this type of fake, the quarterback barely raises his arm, as Roethlisberger demonstrates here. Notice that subtle gesture freezes the safety just enough for him to execute the perfect throw to receiver Martavis Bryant. The whole idea is that even with the soft fake, Roethlisberger is to deceive the safety into thinking he is throwing in the opposite direction.

The Hard Fake


This is Ben’s signature fake and it is one that is amazing to watch. Ben in this case, fully commits to performing a throwing motion but note how the ball never comes out of his hand. The nature of his motion freezes the outside and inside linebacker, and draws the cornerback towards him; as a result, tight end Jesse James is wide open to make the catch.

Last season, according to Pro Football Focus, Ben Roethlisberger had the highest percentage of pump fakes per drop back by a very large margin. It is clear from viewing this statistic, Roethlisberger has fully adopted this skill to the point where it has become second nature.

The only real method of stopping Roethlisberger’s pump fake is for pass rushers to get close enough to aim at his throwing shoulder. The problem in this case being that the Steelers have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, and has made it increasingly difficult for pass rushers to get close to Roethlisberger. No matter what one may say about Roethlisberger, this skill is one of many that makes him among the very elite at his position.