With the Steelers missing the playoffs the last 2 seasons and spending less time in the national spotlight, something has been developing under the radar with their quarterback. He is becoming more efficient.
Early in his career, Ben Roethlisberger was inconsistent. He’d make a highlight-reel play and then come right back and make a silly mistake. He ran around a lot, throwing his body at defenders and making plays with his legs. This made him dangerous as a quarterback, but also kept him from being reliable. He often didn’t stick with the design of the play, but would instead make it up as he went along. At times, if Roethlisberger had just planted his foot and delivered the ball, it would have been an easy 20-25 yard gain. Instead he would run around, make a few defenders miss, and scramble 11 yards for a first down, landing him on all the highlight shows.
All of his play-making ability has masked the fact that Roethlisberger is a very accurate passer. When he plants his foot and steps into his throws, he looks like a professional and seasoned quarterback. When he gets rid of the ball on time, he is very effective, and the offense is more consistent. This is something that’s been happening more and more in recent years.
Something else has happened over the last few years. Roethlisberger has stopped holding onto the ball as long as he used to, and as a result he’s taken less of a beating. From 2004-2010, when the Steelers won 2 Super Bowls and made it to a third, Roethlisberger was sacked 8.9% of the time. Last year Roethlisberger was sacked 42 times on 626 dropbacks, a rate of 6.7%. What was the reason for the improvement? Was the offensive line just that much better? Anyone who watched the film of the Steelers offense in 2013 would tell you “heck no.” At least we would. To us, the lower sack rate supports the notion that Big Ben was more diligent about getting the ball out of his hands on time. And this just goes to show that pass protection is a 2-way street between a quarterback and his line.
Roethlisberger still does have his issues. He can be fooled with disguised coverages more so than some of the other upper-echelon quarterbacks. But he still does have the ability to make plays when things break down. In his older age, he’s learning to do this as a contingency instead of relying on it. Roethlisberger continues to progress as a passer instead of as a playmaker, and this will only help him be more consistent as he gets older.