On the Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger sees lots of himself in Jacksonville’s rookie quarterback
October 2, 2014 12:00 AM
Gregory Bull/Associated Press
Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles, preparing for his first start in the NFL, warms up for the Jaguars' football game against the San Diego Chargers on Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014, in San Diego.
By Ed Bouchette/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Same agents, same position, same high draft pick, similar in stature and style, Ben Roethlisberger sees himself in Jacksonville’s rookie quarterback, Blake Bortles.
“A young me,” Roethlisberger said, although, “I don’t move quite as well as I used to.”
It’s a wonder they don’t call him Big Blake.
Jacksonville drafted Bortles with the third pick this year from Central Florida, 10 years after the Steelers drafted Roethlisberger with the 11th. Both stand 6 feet 5, although, at 232 pounds, Bortles has a few pounds to go to match his Steelers counterpart. Both have good movement in the pocket and running ability. Both were not supposed to play their rookie seasons.
Roethlisberger was forced into playing in the second game of 2004 because of an arm injury to Tommy Maddox, and he started his first game the following week. Bortles was forced into playing in the third game after Jaguars coach Gus Bradley saw enough of Chad Henne through the first 2½ games. He made his debut in the second half against Indianapolis.
“We were down, 30-0, at halftime, and that’s when they said, ‘You are going in, you’re up.’ So that was when I found out,” Bortels said.
Bortles has thrown four interceptions in six quarters, but he also has thrown three touchdown passes and has shown good accuracy, completing 43 of 61 passes for a .705 percentage. He has run seven times for 54 yards, which is Big Ben-esque.
“I liked him coming out,” Roethlisberger said. “I thought he was the most ready and a guy that I thought could be the best, just because I think the things he does: He can extend plays, he can stay in, he can throw the ball, he can throw on the run. He is an impressive-type young player. He makes some rookie mistakes but he also makes some plays that you don’t expect rookies to make in a good way.”
Bortles got together with Roethlisberger in February in California when some Steelers receivers joined the quarterbacks for some sessions in Irvine. The rookie said the two quarterbacks had similar situations.
“We come from smaller schools and wind up playing in our rookie year toward the beginning of it. So I think just stuff he talked about continuing to stay after it and work hard and the time and dedication put into it.
“He’s definitely somebody that I’ve been compared to a lot. He’s won two Super Bowls and had all kinds of success, and I’ve played a game and a half. So I don’t know how much comparison there is there. But as far as playing type, I think a big guy that can move around a little bit. Obviously, Ben does a great job in the pocket avoiding sacks and stuff like that. He’s definitely somebody that I try and model some things I do after him.”
There is one big difference between the two as rookies: Roethlisberger won all 13 games he started in 2004 as his talented team went 15-1. Bortles already is 0-1 for the overmatched and 0-4 Jaguars.
There long has been a debate within NFL ranks as to whether a prized rookie quarterback should play immediately or take his time to learn the ropes before he is thrown to the wolves that can be NFL defenses.
“I typically would say to sit and watch,” Roethlisberger said as to which philosophy is better. “I had an older team, so my situation was different than most. But I think it helps you so much to be able as a young guy [to sit]. Look what Aaron Rodgers did. He got to sit behind Brett [Favre] for a while. I think it helps those guys to sit for at least a year to kind of see and get a feel for what you want to do because this is a much faster game than college.”
But Jacksonville does not have a Favre. Roethlisberger helped save the 2004 season. Jacksonville looks to Bortles to be the savior this season.
“As a competitor, you want to go play. You want to go play now, and that was my mindset,” Bortles said. “I understood the reasoning for not playing. I think there are guys who have played right away who have been successful and guys who have played right away who have struggled. I think there are pros and cons to both sides of it.
“But I feel like I learn best by going through and doing it. I think you learn by making mistakes and what throws you can and can’t make and what decisions to make and not to make.”
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