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Ben Roethlisberger Interview

Posted By: Chris Ransom on 10/23/2015

Chris Ransom: Part of growing as a journalist is interviewing players. Today I'm joined by Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. How's it going Ben.

Ben Roethlisberger: I'm doing good Chris. Let's get started.

Chris Ransom: How would you assess the Pittsburgh Steelers 2015 season?

Ben Roethlisberger: Well Chris, it has been an uphill battle to say the least. Injuries with center Maurkice Pouncey, along with suspensions due to LeVeon Bell, and Martavis Bryant have kept people from seeing this Pittsburgh Steelers football team at 100 percent. Then my left knee got injured against the Rams, and I have not thrown one pass to Bryant this year yet which is why this offense has not showed its maximum potential yet.

Chris Ransom: How would you assess the backups on offense this year?

Ben Roethlisberger: Cody Wallace has shown more communication at center then he did in previous years. His pass protection has improved a little as well. DeAngelo Williams was phenomenal in Bell’s absence and he did so well that I want to give both backs carries because they both deliver. Michael Vick has learned a lot from his mistakes since prison and he’s 2-1 as a starter even though he should be 1-1 with Landry Jones coming in during the second half. The most important thing is that the Steelers are 2-1 since my injury because this teams goal is to get back to the NFL Playoffs in 2016.

Chris Ransom: Should Pittsburgh run a 2 back committee system with Bell and Haley?

Ben Roethlisberger: That’s really up to Coach Haley to decide since he calls the plays on our offense.

Chris Ransom: You mentioned the backup quarterbacks and what can you tell me about this teams backups from coaching them during your injury.

Ben Roethlisberger: Bruce Gradkowski was supposed to be my backup back in the preseason. He got hurt and Landry Jones had a rough preseason game so the team brought in Michael Vick for a tryout and he did well enough to earn a spot on this roster. Vick has been much more vocal this season than in years past plus he defeated our team last year when we traveled to New York to face the Jets. He certainly does not have the speed from his rookie season with Atlanta, but he can still scramble like the quarterback that took the Falcons to the NFC Championship. I think he can get out of the pocket just as well as I do and make a play with his arm or legs. Landry looked a little rusty when he first came into the league, but he has made great progress improving each year.

Chris Ransom: When you say Landry looked rusty what exactly do you mean?

Ben Roethlisberger: When he first arrived at training camp in 2013 out of Oklahoma he had moments where he would overthrow a pass to our 3rd team wide receivers because he had a cannon for an arm. There were plays where he would under throw a fade route or there would be a little too much top spin on his slants with the tight ends. Jones played a shotgun spread offense at Oklahoma under Bob Stoops so maybe he needed a year to adjust to the NFL. Jones showed more awareness from the pocket in a west coast offense in year two showing some signs of being a future backup in 2014, but the team wanted to stick with Gradkowski. Lots of people in the media say Landry Jones took a step back after the Hall Of Fame game against the Vikings. I disagree with that statement. Outside of myself I think Landry Jones has the best football IQ among the quarterbacks on this roster. Hes constantly watching tape pointing out throws I missed in the locker room taking notes and that helps me grow every week.

Chris Ransom: Can any quarterbacks on this team start well after your career is over?

Ben Roethlisberger: This organization has brought in effective backup veterans over the years like Batch, Leftwich, and Gradkowski who stepped up when they needed to. Landry has that same ability except he is younger and there is potential for Landry to develop into a starter because he had the arm strength coming out of College. Jones had the arm and physical tools of a first round quarterback, but scouts had questions about his accuracy and mechanics. His football IQ is much better than scouts will lead you to believe. I like his touch and delivery just as much as Vick’s. One thing I would like to see Jones do against the Chiefs is work on his progressions because he can make reckless throws at times.

Chris Ransom: You mentioned that you have coached the quarterbacks during your injury. One thing I noticed is the remarkable coaching staff with Todd Haley at offensive coordinator, Randy Fitchner as a quarterbacks/receivers coach, James Saxson as a running back coach, and Mike Munchak as an offensive line coach. Does coaching the quarterbacks take pressure off of Fitchner making his job easier and feel free to mention these offensive position coaches.

Ben Roethlisberger: Absolutely. Fitchner has coached the quarterbacks and receivers in the past. Now he coaches both positions and mentoring the other quarterbacks while I am injured allows him to focus on just the receivers and you are seeing more production from Darius Heyward Bey and Markus Wheaton as a result.

I honestly believe that Fitchner, Saxson, and Munchak could all be offensive coordinators on any other NFL team. Those coaches are just that good.

Fitchner could step in at any point if the team moved on from Todd Haley because Fitchner has always been the one to tell me to keep my cool when I felt frustrated with the decisions Haley made following a tough loss. Saxson came to Pittsburgh from the Minnesota Vikings just like Mike Tomlin. Saxson took his magic with Adrian Peterson and gave LeVeon Bell those same tools and even when Bell was out DeAngelo Williams looked like the first round draft pick coming out of Memphis with the guidance of Saxson. Finally you got Mike Munchak who was a great offensive line coach with the Titans. He may not have been in the best situation as a head coach, but he has been able to take his pedigree as an offensive line coach along with his experience as a head coach and apply it to the Steelers. We may not the best pass protection, but instead of going only 4 games in a season without allowing a sack in a game, this team has the potential to go 8 games in a season without a sack due to Munchak. I take a lot of hits, but some of it is due to facing really good defenses and trying to find an open man when dealing with tight coverage.

Chris Ransom: What’s the toughest defense you have faced in 2015?

Ben Roethlsiberger: Without a doubt the Rams. The blitzes and packages they bring are just so unpredictable. That defense made us work for the win and I respect those guys as competitors. Mark Barron made a great play at a critical time when I left the game so I got nothing bad to say about him.

Chris Ransom: Is this the worst injury you have had in your career?

Ben Roethlisberger: Without a doubt. I had other injuries in the past that caused me to miss games. Tearing my MCL in my left knee limited my movement the last two weeks. Now I am on a steady recovery after suffering that bone bruise against the Rams has kept me on the sidelines in 2015. One of the biggest challenges earlier this week was having to go through 6 different knee braces to tape the injury.

Chris Ransom: Do you think this is the team to beat in the AFC when you get back?

Ben Roethlisberger: We may wield the best offense in the AFC when I return. Right now we just need to keep winning games and let the offense and defense speak for itself on the gridiron.

This offense was so deadly in 2014 down the stretch with Bell, Brown, Bryant, and Miller allowing me to impose my will on secondaries with my arm. Our offense has gone through a lot of adversity as our first game with all 5 of us in the lineup will be when I return from my injury whenever that is.

The Colts went through similar adversity with Andrew Luck injured despite an 0-2 start and now that offense is back at 100 percent. Right now the Steelers are learning a lot about adversity from that Colts team by winning critical games with our backups.

I want to say this is the best offense in the AFC, but I have not played with Bryant all season so I cannot really go into too much detail at this time. Antonio Brown delivered as expected without Bryant and he needs to be commended for that.

I do believe that the Pittsburgh Steelers have the best chance of beating the Patriots outside of the Colts who we defeated at Heinz Field last year. The only lost by 6 points without Bell and Bryant at Gillette Stadium, but we just need to keep working hard and take it one game at a time.

Chris Ransom: Good Luck against the Chiefs and thanks for talking with me.

Ben Roethlisberger: My pleasure.

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