If you ask people in the NFL which current quarterback they think Andrew Luck plays like, the answer you might get from many would be Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. They both are big, strong guys who possess the ability to extend plays, toughness, grit, make guys miss, etc. When preparing for most quarterbacks you're going to prepare for their throwing ability - with Luck and Roethlisberger, there's so much more that you have to account for.
Colts head coach Chuck Pagano knows this. "They're both great quarterbacks," he said during his Wednesday press conference. "Ben's a future Hall of Famer as far as I'm concerned, as far as we're concerned. I've been beat several times because of what he's capable of doing. Andrew has beat opposing defenses because of that ability because they're big, they're strong, they're athletic, got great arm talent and they can extend plays. Right when you think you have them sacked, they find a way to get away from you. It doesn't matter who it is, whether it's defensive linemen, a linebacker, secondary personnel.
"This guy you've got to do a great job containing him and trying to keep him in the pocket as best you can. When you do come free, if you're lucky enough to come free and have a chance to get him down, you've got to be under control and you've got to wrap him up. He's a hard guy to bring down and when he breaks contain and he extends plays, that's when they wreak a bunch of havoc on you. I've been burned in the past a ton by him and Santonio Holmes and now it's him to (Antonio) Brown when that happens or somebody else. So he's as good as there is at extending plays."
Similar skill sets aren't the only thing the two have in common, though - they've both had Bruce Arians as their offensive coordinator and they've both excelled under the great quarterback coach. Luck referenced that when talking with the media on Wednesday. "I remember watching a lot of Pittsburgh film as a rookie to try and learn coach (Bruce) Arians' offense," Luck said. "Half the time you're sort of putting the clicker down saying, ‘Oh my gosh, how does this guy do that?' He's an incredible, incredible quarterback. He's obviously a multiple Super Bowl winner and done so many things. His ability to extend plays is amazing. I know our defense is focused on not trying to let that happen.
"As a quarterback, you know that if you can extend a play during a game, it can be demoralizing to a defense. If you convert a first down or get a touchdown, that can really help. But he's certainly the master at that."
Luck went on to add that, "I certainly admire the way he can extend plays," though this is something that the third-year quarterback has become known for as well. His ability to extend plays when things are breaking down and make something out of nothing is pretty amazing and a sight to behold. Obviously, you hope that you're never in that situation, but understand the reality that it will happen and Luck is as good as there is at making something out of those situations. Roethlisberger is terrific at that too.
"He's just a heck of a quarterback," veteran defensive end Cory Redding agreed. "The biggest thing is we've got to keep him in a well. We've got to keep him in the pocket. You can't let him start running around. That's when he becomes the Ben Roethlisberger that everybody knows, extends plays with his feet, finding the guys the down the field to take shots. Those are probably the only concerns other than you've got to get pressure on him and get him down to the ground."
The Colts recognize the tough test they face in the Steelers' signal caller. Roethlisberger has completed 65.9% of his passes for 1,858 yards and 10 touchdowns against just 3 interceptions. On the flip side, however, the Steelers are greatly aware of the test they face in Andrew Luck this weekend.
"You know I've heard that comparison," Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said on Wednesday regarding the comparison between Roethlisberger and Luck. "I just think that he's a caliber of quarterback that he shouldn't be compared to someone else. I just think that he does similar things but I think that he's his own man. He's more mobile I think than people give him credit for. He's strong. He keeps his eyes down field. I think all of that stuff works for him."
When asked what Andrew Luck does well, Roethlisberger was effusive in his praise of the Colts' quarterback as well. "Everything," Roethlisberger said, "he does everything well. He's quickly emerging as one of the best in this league and I kind of had anticipated that early on with him. I think we all kind of knew the special talent that he was. Just from being a big athlete, having a big arm, being smart, making all the throws, the reads, just a great football player. He lets his play do his talking. You don't see him off the field doing a lot of stuff. I think he just is about football and he does it at an extremely high level."
The Steelers face the NFL's leading passer in Andrew Luck, as this year he has completed 65.9% of his passes for 2,331 yards and 19 touchdowns against 7 interceptions (he has also added two scores on the ground).
Ultimately, what you'll see this Sunday is a duel between two teams led by quarterbacks who are strong and tough and who possess the ability to extend the play in order to make plays. The Colts defense realizes the challenge they face in Ben Roethlisberger, and likewise the Steelers defense realizes the challenge they face in Andrew Luck. Not only are both of them tough players, they're tough to defend against too.