Big Ben has been large nightmare for Guenther
ALAMEDA » For four years Paul Guenther called plays intended to stop Ben Roethlisberger.
As Bengals defensive coordinator from 2014-17, Guenther faced a Roethlisberger-led Steelers team nine times. Roethlisberger won eight, plastering 25.6 points per game on Guenther’s defenses.
Big Ben, who’s actually 0-3 in his career at the Oakland Coliseum, leads the NFL with 3,945 passing yards through 13 weeks. Steelers starting running back James Conner won’t play Sunday in Oakland, but Roethlisberger still has the league’s best wide receiver at his disposal in Antonio Brown. And Guenther, who’s seen the best of Roethlisberger the last four seasons, thinks the 15th-year signal- caller is even better at 36 years old.
“It’s always fun to compete against him. He’s a heck of a player. I’ve had a lot of battles against him,” Guenther said.
“It’s a fun game to go against him because he plays at such a high level. He can get them in and out of plays and make unscripted plays. I thought I wouldn’t see him for a while, but I guess I’ll see him sooner than I thought.”
Despite his overwhelming dominance of Guenther, Roethlisberger has thrown as many interceptions (six) as touchdowns in his three losses in Oakland. Something has to give, when the AFC North-leading Steelers visit the bottom- dwelling Raiders Sunday, in a game the Steelers need to win for playoff hopes as much as the Raiders might be better off losing for draft position.
Even at 6- foot- 5 and 240 pounds,
Roethlisberger has established himself as one of the best quarterback creators in NFL history. Like the Raiders faced with Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes last week, shutting down an offense’s first option in the air might mean the play is just getting started against the future Hall of Famer.
“He’s just elusive and he’s a big guy to bring down. We got to wrap our arms, grab cloth on the way through on the rush and make sure we get our hands on him,” Guenther said. “With Mahomes we did a pretty good job of taking away his first read. He made a lot of plays with his feet, getting out of the pocket. A lot of really impressive throws. Ben is very much of that, being able to do those things. There is going to be five or six plays where he may slide out to the right or left and throw the ball down the field.”
Roethlisberger has been sacked only 17 times this season, 27th-most in the league, and a healthy dose of plays are kept alive by his feet. He has, however, thrown the second-most interceptions in the league (13), so opportunities will be there for Raiders defensive backs even if their pass rush remains anemic.
Whether the Raiders can capitalize on those gaffes, though, will determine whether they hand Roethlisberger his first win at the Coliseum or a fourth consecutive loss.
“He doesn’t look any different to me when I was playing against him, when I was coaching last time or when I was in the booth or studying him now,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said. “He’s still got a great physical presence in the pocket. He still creates a lot of offense when nothing is there with his scrambling. He’s at his best when they need him the most. They need him a lot right now, so we’re expecting the best from Roethlisberger on Sunday.”
• Marshawn Lynch nominated for Walter Payton Man of the Year for his good deeds. Each year all 32 teams nominate one player for the Walter Payton Man of the Year honor.
Lynch is involved heavily in his Fam1st Family Foundation, which services underprivileged youth in Oakland and other communities. Lynch also helped make a kid’s wish come true through the MakeA-Wish Foundation, where the child visited Raiders HQ and met Lynch in person.
Lynch is on injured reserve and will miss the remainder of the season.
Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther had a rough time against Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger when he was in Cincinnati.
Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger, who faces the Raiders on Sunday, has feasted on Paul Guenther’s defenses in the past.