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Big Ben is the new Shaq

There was a time in the late 1990s and early 2000s when Shaquille O'Neal was an unstoppable force in the NBA.

Part of the reason for his dominance was his physique. He was big (7-foot-1) and tipped the scales at over 300 pounds. You couldn't stop him.

The only way to slow him down was the aptly named Hack-A-Shaq defense. That's where the defenders would simply foul O'Neal when he got the ball close to the basket. The reason it worked, or at least gave the opposition a chance, was the poor foul shooting by O'Neal.

Because Shaq was so big and strong, referees would allow the opposition to get physical with O'Neal. Sometimes, they got too physical. The problem was, no one else was allowed to get away with it on another player in the league.

Which brings me to Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Opposing defenses are teeing off on Big Ben, with some very questionable hits going unnoticed by officials.

He's become the new Shaq.

Roethlisberger isn't as dominant as Shaq was, but Big Ben certainly is large (6-5, 241) and he's getting pounded like Shaq did.

For just about any other quarterback, officials would call in the grasp when a defender wraps up a quarterback. For Roethlisberger, he doesn't get that. And, that can be good. Conversely, officials put away their whistles and allow more shots on Roethlisberger.

Part of the reason is Roethlisberger's ability to keep a play alive. How many times have you seen Ben look like he's wrapped up only to brush off a defender and complete a pass for a first down or touchdown?

Yeah, there are the fumbles and interceptions that go with it as well, but it's what you get with Roethlisberger. That's all part of the package. Until, it seems, this season.

With the NFL's added scrutiny of players like linebacker James Harrison, you would think Roethlisberger would be afforded a little more protection, especially being a quarterback.

Unfortunately, that's not the case. Knowing this, defenders can pound Big Ben, just like NBA defenders beat up on Shaq.

That's not excusing any of the bad calls this season. That's just life this season for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

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