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fordfixer
10-09-2009, 02:30 AM
Ben sidesteps QB-protection question

By Scott Brown, TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Friday, October 9, 2009
Ben sidesteps QB-protection question

The question of whether the NFL has blurred the line between protecting quarterbacks and coddling them has become pertinent once again.

Ben Roethlisberger weighed in on the hot-button issue Thursday, although he treaded lightly when asked if the NFL has stripped the game of some of its essence by restricting where defensive players are allowed to hit quarterbacks.

"I am going to have to be real careful on how I answer that," the Steelers quarterback said before practice yesterday. "You know you have to protect Tom Brady and Peyton Manning and those guys, because they are kind of the face of the NFL."

The Ravens drew a pair of questionable roughing-the-passer penalties in a 27-21 loss to the Patriots last Sunday, and to some it seemed more than a coincidence that Brady is New England's quarterback.

Brady, along with Manning, is one of the most marketable players in the NFL.

Brady suffered a season-ending knee injury in the first game of 2008. During the offseason, NFL owners passed a rule that makes it illegal for defensive players to dive at a quarterback's legs.

It is commonly referred to as the Brady Rule -- and it has reinforced notions that marquee quarterbacks get special treatment because of their value to the NFL.

"I have seen particular quarterbacks just kind of look at an official and get a flag," Roethlisberger said. "I guess if that is the way it is, that is how it is. I feel being a mobile quarterback who doesn't give up on plays, I try to fight through a lot of things. Maybe that hurts me a little bit when it comes to that."

Like Roethlisberger, Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said style of play, as well as stature, determines which quarterbacks are more likely to draw roughing-the-passer penalties.

Referees, Arians added, have become so used to seeing Roethlisberger absorb hits because of his scrambling that he may not get some of the calls given to traditional pocket passers such as Brady and Manning.

Arians said Roethlisberger has taken shots to the head three different times this season without drawing a penalty.

The Steelers sent all three plays to the NFL so they could get a clarification on why no penalties were assessed for the hits.

"You'd like to see more of those called against," Arians said, "but I think with (Roethlisberger's) style of play, you probably won't see as many."

Defensive players would like to see fewer of those calls, period, and if they are a little frustrated when it comes to rules regarding quarterbacks, is it understandable.

Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison got penalized for roughing the passer in a Sept. 20 game in Chicago when an official ruled he had dived at the legs of Bears quarterback Jay Cutler.

The Steelers contend that Harrison got blocked into Cutler and fell after losing his balance.

When asked if the NFL has gone too far in trying to protect quartebracks, Harrison held his tongue.

"I'm going to have to say no comment to that," the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year said, "because I don't want to get fined."

What is clear is that the zone for defensive players has shrunk as far as hitting quarterbacks.

Anything above the head or below the knees is almost certain to draw a 15-yard penalty.

"Any more in this league, you can't even really come close to the quarterback, so it's hard," Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel said. "But it's something that's in the rules and something that we can't dwell on and something that we really can't think on. We just have to go out and play and try to get them on the ground as legally as possible."