BEREA - Before anyone starts feeling sorry for Browns quarterback Colt McCoy because of the lack of support he receives from the offensive line, take a look at what Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger puts up with every season.
The Steelers are talented in many areas, but offensive line isn't one of them. Granted, Maurkice Pouncey is a talented young center, and left guard Chris Kemoeatu has done his share for the cause at left guard, but the rest of the line is collection of talent that's been thrown together because of injuries.
As a result, Roethlisberger is again like the main character in "The Fugitive" - always on the run but rarely caught.
Perhaps no quarterback in the NFL absorbs more physical abuse than Roethlisberger, who has two Super Bowl rings to his credit in an eight-year career. This season is no different. He's been sacked 35 times and undoubtedly hit considerable times after releasing the ball.
McCoy, by comparisons, has been sacked 30 times. He's also been hit numerous other times.
While Roethlisberger has a 93.6 passer rating, McCoy is at 76.9. Roethlisberger has completed 63.7 percent of his passes with 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. McCoy has connected on 57.7 percent of his passes with 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
There are two big differences between the quarterbacks arm strength and the ability to escape the pass rush. McCoy has yet to show the ability to stretch the field, and he lacks the physical strength to shake off on-rushing linemen. Roethlisberger is strong in both of those areas.
"What he's proven is he can make plays, no matter how pretty it's supposed to look," Browns coach Pat Shurmur said of Roethlisberger. "Guys are hanging all over him and it may be a 5-yard pass that turns into a 20-yard gain. Like all quarterbacks you need to find a way to get pressure on him to try to disrupt him."
There aren't many quarterbacks that defenses have to gang tackle, but the 6-5, 241-pound Roethlisberger is one of them. Trying to get him on the ground has to be a defensive lineman's nightmare.
"He's probably the best at extending plays and being able to throw on the run from his right and his left," Browns linebacker D'Qwell Jackson said. "He's spreading the ball around a lot this year. A lot of their receivers have a lot of catches, and (Rashard) Mendenhall just complements everything.
"Ben is hard to figure out. He's one of those guys that gets stronger as the game goes on."
Roethlisberger has a different style of elusiveness than faster quarterbacks like Michael Vick and Tim Tebow. He can slip a defender with a simple sidestep move, and he can ward them off with brute strength.
"He looks big and easy to hit, but he's not," Jackson said. "He has great feet. He does a good job of making the first guy miss. He's been in this offense for years. They have their timing down. They have a deep threat with Mike Wallace. He spreads the ball around. You can't focus on one guy. You have to be prepared to play sound football."
No one appreciates Roethlisberger's skills more than Steelers coach Mike Tomlin.
"Ben has a ridiculous skill set," Tomlin said. "Of course extraordinary physical talents. You couple that with a unique competitive spirit, and it makes him one of those (top-five) guys (in the NFL)."
When former Steelers coach Bill Cowher was asked the thought process that went into selecting Roethlisberger 14th overall, he said there was no exact science to it. They needed a quarterback, and he was available.
The Browns bypassed Roethlisberger and picked tight end Kellen Winslow that year. We all know how that worked out.