It’s hard to tell exactly why Roethlisberger is having so much success this year. Maybe it’s the rules changes which favor the offense at the expense of defenses. It could be the veteran offensive line, which has only allowed 12 sacks this year. Perhaps it’s running back James Conner‘s north-south running style, which has him outperforming his predecessor Le’Veon Bell. It also maybe be the play calling of new Offensive Coordinator Randy Fichtner, which has been brilliant this year.
Whatever the reason, though, there’s no doubt that Roethlisberger is playing better than he ever has in his career, especially over his last five games, which the Steelers have won to improve their record to 6-2-1, the third-best mark in the AFC.
Ben Roethlisberger Putting Up Amazing Numbers
Consider the following numbers:
After throwing eight touchdowns and five interceptions in the team’s first four games, he’s thrown 13 touchdowns and two interceptions in the team’s last five games. He’s now on pace to surpass his personal best of 32 touchdown passes set in 2007 and 2004.
After completing 64 percent of his passes in the team’s first four games, he’s completed 73 percent in the last five. Overall, he’s completed 66 percent of his passes this season. His career high was 68 percent in 2015.
Roethlisberger completed 244 passes which puts him on pace to surpass his personal best of 408 in 2004. Overall, he’s thrown for 2,888 yards and is on pace to surpass his season high of 4,952 in 2014. By comparison, he threw for 2,621 yards in 13 games during his rookie season.
Steelers Doing Great in Red Zone and on Third Down
Two other numbers stand out.
The Steelers lead in the NFL in Red Zone scoring, getting touchdowns inside the 20 on 78.5 percent of their chances. The Steelers were 6-6 in their last two games against the Carolina Panthers and Baltimore Ravens. New Orleans is fifth at 72.7 percent followed by Kansas City at sixth with 71 percent. New England is 11th at 65.7 percent. The Steelers’ percentage is up sharply from their 53 percent a year ago and is, in fact, the team’s highest percentage under Roethlisberger. The only time they finished in the top five was in 2005 when they were fourth at 62 percent. Since then, they’ve been consistently in the middle of the pack, with percentages ranging from a high of 57 in 2013 to a low of 39 in 2007.
The Steelers are converting on 48.7 percent of their third downs, up from 44 percent last year. That’s also the highest percentage for the Steelers since Roethlisberger took over as quarterback. The Steelers have been mostly in the middle of the pack under Roethlisberger with their highest ranking being second in 2014. Their percentages have ranged from a high of 46.8 in 2007 to a low of 35 in 2005. Their percentage this year is the third highest in the league, behind Indianapolis and Atlanta at 52.4 and 51.3, respectively. Kansas City is fifth at 47.2 percent followed by New Orleans, which is sixth at 46.2 percent. New England is 14th at 39.7 percent.
Of course, Roethlisberger has to stay healthy for the offensive fireworks to continue and that’s been a problem in his career. He’s only played in all 16 games, three times in his career.
He also has shown a mystifying ability to lose games on the road against below-average teams. Steelers fans remember back in 2014 when Roethlisberger set an NFL record by throwing 11 touchdown passes in consecutive wins against Indianapolis and Baltimore, who both made the playoffs that year. However, the next week he only threw one touchdown and was intercepted twice in a loss on the road to the New York Jets, who were 4-12 that year.
The Steelers already tied the Cleveland Browns in the opener this season and have three road games left against below 500 teams, Jacksonville, Denver, and Oakland. They play the Jaguars Sunday. Last year Jacksonville tortured Roethlisberger, picking him off six times. The Jaguars beat the Steelers twice both at Heinz Field, the second coming in the AFC playoffs by a 45-42 score.
The Steelers also have to travel to New Orleans for a game with the high-flying Saints and have home games with the Chargers, Patriots, and Bengals.
But if Roethlisberger can avoid injuries and find a way to beat below-average teams on the road, this could well be the best year of his career. And if his hot play continues, he could win a third Super Bowl. That would guarantee him a first-ballot selection for the NFL’s Hall of Fame.
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