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Bills know bringing down Roethlisberger is not a one-man job

If you stopped at the fact he's one of the greatest passers in NFL history, that would be enough to make facing Ben Roethlisberger an enormous challenge for the Buffalo Bills' defense.

If you went no farther than the 3,034 yards and 25 touchdowns for which he has thrown this season, with only eight interceptions, you'd be talking about the potential for a long and difficult three hours at New Era Field Sunday.

There's another part of the Big Ben story that merits a whole separate conversation.

That's the part about getting Roethlisberger's 6-foot-5, 240-pound frame to the ground. Or at least being able to prevent him from using his immense size and strength to stay upright enough long enough to get the ball into the hands of a receiver.

Extending plays is such a staple of Roethlisberger's game that in preparing for the Pittsburgh Steelers, an opponent must factor it into every level of its defense. If the defensive line and outside linebackers can't get to him, the inside linebackers and secondary will be tested to defend his on-the-money throws.

Allow Roethlisberger to stand in the pocket and make a throw, and there's a pretty good chance Antonio Brown, one of the two best receivers in the NFL, is going to be dancing in your end zone.

"You first have to look at his overall physique," Bills outside linebacker Jerry Hughes, who is 6-2 and 254 pounds, said Friday. "He's pretty much an offensive lineman because he's bigger than some of us defensive ends or linebackers who actually" have to "tackle him. So it's pretty much going to be an all-out wrestling match just to get somebody down who's that big, because you really don't see too many quarterbacks that big that really have his stature other than" Carolina's "Cam Newton."

"We actually have some guys that quite honestly, I don’t know if we can bring him down," coach Rex Ryan said. "So we’ve got to keep our coverage, you’ve got to plaster in the back end. You know how good this guy is at extended plays and he’s been that way for years."

The job won't be any easier with defensive tackle Kyle Williams listed as questionable with a back issue that cropped up Friday. Ryan said he was "very concerned" about Williams' status for the game.

If Williams doesn't play, the Bills will lose a significant part of their ability to bring pressure up the middle, which is where most teams find success against Roethlisberger. Of course, getting past the Steelers' standout interior-line duo of center Maurkice Pouncey and right guard David DeCastro would be extremely difficult if Williams were healthy.

Now, the Bills might have to rely mainly on tackle Marcell Dareus to bring the most inside pressure.

But Ryan expressed faith in others who will need to step up to help with the pass-rushing cause. One is Jerel Worthy, who will start or at least see extra playing time if Williams is inactive. Another is veteran Leger Douzable.

"He's almost my size, if you're thinking in stature," the 6-4, 284-pound Douzable said of Roethlisberger, who he has faced three times in his career. "It's almost sometimes easier to go at the ball rather than to tackle him. Because if you don't wrap him up around his body, you can't bring him down.

"You can't hit him low because he's going to be able to get the ball off. I've had a couple of those. I've sacked him a couple of times, but when you hit him low, he has enough strength to get the ball off and he has enough arm strength to get some completions. And you've seen that this year."

As Douzable pointed out, Roethlisberger is "never down," even when that appears to be the case. Time after time during his career, he has completed passes while falling to the ground or when defenders seem to have him all but sacked because of his powerful arm that can function well from seemingly impossible angles.

The best formula for success? Let the defensive linemen corral him and the edge rushers knock the ball out of his grasp.

"You just have to be really focusing and in tune to where the ball is," Hughes said. "What our coaches are instructing us to do is go for his" right "throwing arm, because you can have his non-throwing arm; he'll still find a way to get the ball off to targets for huge plays. So we've just got to always be attacking that arm."

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