Ben Roethlisberger is well aware of what he will be up against when Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and the Detroit Lions pay Pittsburgh a visit this weekend.
”You’ll end up dead if you’re not careful,” Roethlisberger joked Wednesday. ”That’s a great D-line and defense. I tell myself all the time to be alert for those things, but when the bullets start flying who knows what’s going to happen?”
A bemused Suh offered some reassurance.
”That’s interesting,” Suh said. ”I’m not a killer. My track record proves that one, or I’d be in jail. I guess I’ve got to take that somewhat as a compliment – or we have to – but no, there’s going to be no killing on Sunday.”
Roethlisberger was speaking figuratively, of course, but Suh and Fairley are a tandem to be feared this season. Drafted in the first round a season apart, they’re anchoring a defense that is a big part of why the Lions are in first place in the NFC North.
In last weekend’s 21-19 win over Chicago, Detroit came up big while backed up against its own goal line. Late in the first half, the Bears had the ball at the Detroit 4-yard line. That’s when Suh was able to redirect a pass that ended up being intercepted in the end zone.
At the end of the game, the Lions stopped a 2-point conversion attempt, and when the Bears got another try because of a penalty, Detroit stopped them again.
”We all lined back up,” Suh said. ”Obviously, we were a little bit upset that we had to do it again, but so be it.”
Lions’ opponents have had 24 chances in the red zone this season, scoring touchdowns only 10 times. That defensive ratio for Detroit is tied for the fourth-best in the league.
”It really comes down to character,” Suh said. ”We’ve got a strong-character defensive team. Even if we’re put on the 1-yard line, we’re going to come out swinging and fighting. . At the very least, we want to hold them to a field goal.”
Suh and Fairley have combined for seven sacks this season. The two defensive tackles will now begin eyeing Roethlisberger, the 6-foot-5 quarterback whose ability to keep plays alive is well known.
Of course, that style comes with a trade-off. Roethlisberger may occasionally avoid the rush and complete a big pass downfield, but if he holds the ball too long, Suh and Fairley are confident they can get to him.
”Most times, quarterbacks are getting it out in two seconds, three seconds,” Fairley said. ”When you get a quarterback that holds the ball four or five seconds, as a D-lineman, you look for that, because you know it keeps you alive in the rush.”
Then there’s the matter of actually tackling Roethlisberger, which is no easy feat.
”One guy is not going to bring him down. We’ve seen that,” Fairley said. ”He spins out of moves, he shakes guys out of him. He’s really just a big, strong quarterback that stays alive.”
NOTES: Suh attended Michigan State’s victory over Kentucky in basketball Tuesday night in Chicago, and that was the topic of a fun back-and-forth with reporters about the defensive lineman’s own abilities on the hardwood. ”If I was 6-foot-7, I don’t know if I’d be playing football right now,” the 6-foot-4, 307-pound Suh said. ”I was a guy that liked to jump out of the gym.” Not to be outdone, Fairley said he’d be willing to take on anybody on the team in basketball. ”I played high school ball but haven’t played since,” Fairley said. ”Anybody in this locker room – whoever wants it, come get it.”
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