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Bears, Trestman have high praise for Big Ben

Updated: September 19, 2013 9:42AM



Coach Marc Trestman isn’t prone to overstatement, so his praise of the Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger as a ‘‘Hall of Fame quarterback’’ can’t easily be dismissed as hyperbolic coach-speak.

‘‘They’ve got a Hall of Fame quarterback who has the ability to extend plays like no other quarterback in my recollection,’’ said the 57-year-old Trestman, who grew up in suburban Minneapolis during the Fran Tarkenton era and coached Steve Young with the 49ers in his 30-year career.

As on-target as Trestman probably is about Big Ben, the 6-5, 241-pound Roethlisberger is just the quarterback the Bears’ defense wants to see Sunday at Heinz Field. Though Roethlisberger’s escapability can be lethal, his desire to hold on to the ball until the last second at least gives you a chance to get him. The Bears are looking forward to it.

‘‘Oh, yeah, especially the front [four],’’ defensive tackle Stephen Paea said. ‘‘This is the time when we’re gonna shine as far as the pass rush. All four guys have to get to the QB.’’

It’s a perfectly timed challenge for a defense that has two sacks in its first two games after getting 41 last season. Chasing Roethlisberger is a lesson in perseverance, discipline, teamwork and focus — qualities every coach tries to instill in a defense, but they’re especially essential to the Bears’ defense under Mel Tucker.

It’s not enough to contain Roethlisberger. It’s not enough to get to him or even hit him.

‘‘We all know what he can do,’’ Paea said. ‘‘When you get to him, the job is not finished until he’s on the ground. I watched film, and I counted like 10 guys missing him — because he actually sees you [coming]. You think he’s going down, but he’s not. I’ve seen outside linebackers, big guys who weigh 260 and 270 [hit him], and he still extends plays.’’

Tucker, who faced Roethlisberger twice a year with the Browns from 2005 to ’08 and with the Jaguars in 2011, emphasizes the fundamentals necessary to sack the quarterback every week. But he’s making a special emphasis against Roethlisberger.

‘‘Whatever we teach them, we have to do it better,’’ Tucker said. ‘‘You have to take it up a notch with [Roethlisberger]. There aren’t going to be any misconceptions when we get off the plane. We know what we’ve got to do.’’

Tucker had the Bears’ video department put together tapes of Roethlisberger’s greatest hits this week.

‘‘All of his scramble plays from the last 10 years, we’ve got them on tape somewhere,’’ Tucker said. ‘‘You’re sitting there watching the tape, saying, ‘Wow’ [and] ‘Oh, they have him. Oh, they don’t have him.’ [Or] ‘Oh, they had him’ — and he throws the ball 60 yards for a touchdown. And when you get 100 of those plays on tape, [you think] it’s every play [he’s ever made], and it’s not.’’

But it gets the point across. Or it should. It will be a good first-road-game test for the Bears — though not exactly a defining one. The Steelers (0-2) are ranked 31st in offense. They’ve scored 19 points in losses to the Titans (16-9 at home) and the Bengals (20-10 on the road).

Roethlisberger, behind an offensive line still figuring things out after losing three-time Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey to a season-ending knee injury in the opener, is 26th in the NFL in passer rating (74.8).

He’s completing a career-low 58.8 percent of his passes. He has been sacked seven times. He still escapes and is resilient, but he has yet to make anybody pay a big price for failing to finish the job.

Not yet, anyway.

‘‘Even when you’re hanging on the guy, he still makes a throw down the field,’’ Tucker said. ‘‘He can throw it 60 yards on the run. He’s a rare guy that way. It’s going to be a huge challenge.’’

Email: mpotash@suntimes.com

Twitter: @MarkPotash



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