Ben Roethlisberger Feels NFL Will Have To Revisit QB Sneak Guidelines After Success With ‘Pusher’ In 2022

2022 was the year of the quarterback sneak. That carried over into the Super Bowl where it served as a clearly potent weapon for the NFC’s Philadelphia Eagles. Perhaps no team was more successful running it this past season, though it swept the entire league. Even the Pittsburgh Steelers got in on it, with the ‘pusher’ role becoming prominent.

Former Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was somewhat infamous for not running sneaks. That became increasingly true as he got older, though he always maintained he would run them if they were called. Perhaps he would have favored them more with a pusher, which he wonders might not be legal much longer.

“I just feel like at some point the competition committee’s gonna have to look at it and find out [a way to adjust it, like] you can’t get more than one person pushing or something”, he said on the latest episode of his Footbahlin podcast. “At some point, they’re gonna put a big extra tackle in, like some big guy back there and just have him push like the bigger the guy and push. Or your quarterback’s gonna get hurt”.

Quarterbacks have gotten hurt running sneaks before, of course, including the Kansas City Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes. And disaster can strike when you have a ball-carrier less versed in situational running, as we saw with the Baltimore Ravens’ Tyler Huntley at the goal line.

But the results of the quarterback sneak this past season were undisputable, and it really kind of changed the landscape of short-yardage situations. The Steelers ran Kenny Pickett a fair bit on sneaks in those situations, and there was a time or two when he needed the pusher to get him over the edge.

Whether or not the league decides to revisit this topic is unknown, though I wouldn’t bet on it. They’re not exactly in the habit of making things harder for offenses. Rather it’s typically the opposite, though they have made kickers’ jobs harder.

Still, every team has the same opportunities and trials as it pertains to the sneak. That includes learning how to defend it, something head coach Mike Tomlin has worked on. Alex Highsmith, who was on Roethlisberger’s podcast, talked about how Tomlin prepared them to face Jalen Hurts and the Eagles.

“I remember Coach T was showing us film and he was showing what they’d done the first seven weeks of the year”, he said. “He was showing everybody some linemen, like their feet coming out from the pile. He was like, ‘Don’t be that guy. I don’t want to see your feet’. Because that means you’re getting driven back”.

Hurts didn’t need to use his legs much in that game. He only rushed twice for 10 yards, one of which was a scramble on a designed pass play, the other an eight-yard pickup on 1st and 10. But he managed to throw four touchdown passes and win by 21, so it wasn’t such a bad day for him.

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