The first half of Ben Roethlisberger’s 2017 has been forgettable, to say the least. So far, his completion percentage is at it’s lowest since 2010. His touchdown rate is a low since 2008, and his interception rate is on pace to be the third-worst mark of his career. His quarterback rating is a low since 2008, as is his adjusted yards per attempt. It is not pretty. However, there is still some reason to have faith in Ben Roethlisberger, and assume that this is not all we are going to see out of the Hall of Fame quarterback in 2017.
One of the biggest issues Pittsburgh Steelers fans have had with Roethlisberger has been turning the ball over. His interception per attempt rate is bad, and he is on pace to throw the most interceptions in his career since 2006. However, there is also fair reason to expect that Roethlisberger will not throw as many interceptions in the second half of the season.
To start, some of his interceptions have been fluky. Antonio Brown ran the wrong route and gave up on a route that resulted in two interceptions. Then, there is the Jacksonville Jaguars game that fans will immediately point to as the downfall of Roethlisberger. However, going back through the pass by pass ability and it can easily be argued four of those interceptions are hardly his fault. Of course, Roethlisberger has gotten away with a few dropped interceptions as well, every quarterback does, and it can be argued that law of averages caught up with him on his nine interceptions to date. However, it is also fair to assume that Roethlisberger may not be putting himself in those high turnover situations as much, and it could lead to more efficient play overall.
The Steelers offense has changed their identity. It has shown over the recent three-game winning streak and should continue over the course of the year. This is now a run-first football team that relies on game management from their quarterback.
Over the first five games of the year, Roethlisberger has averaged 39.2 attempts per game. During this three-game winning streak, he has attempted just 26.6 passes per game. The team is now using the running game to open up more high efficient passes. Roethlisberger has really struggled with his deep ball so far this year. Six of his nine interceptions have come from Roethlisberger heaving the ball 20 yards or more down the field. The Steelers are now using quick passes to get Roethlisberger into a better rhythm and stop him from throwing the higher risk passes.
It is not surprising that Roethlisberger had a season high in completion percentage over this span. However, it could be surprising to see that Roethlisberger has his highest yards per attempt rates of the year in the past three weeks. Last week was also a season high in yards.
The reasoning for that is the skill players of Roethlisberger. In changing the team’s identity they admitted one thing, the Steelers skill players are officially more valuable than Roethlisberger. Roethlisberger used to be known for extending plays and creating yards after the reception for his receivers with his maneuvering. Now, he is best getting the ball out of his hands quickly to give his skill players a chance to create those yards.
We all know about Antonio Brown. Le’Veon Bell has been making his way back to being the player of old, and as the team’s identity has shifted to him being the focal point, he has thrived. However, there is still room to get him involved in the passing game, even more, to set up easy completions and yards after the catch for his quarterback.
Many talk about who is better between JuJu Smith-Schuster and Martavis Bryant when the reality is, both will be on the field about 70% of the time moving forward. Smith-Schuster has emerged and has become a threat in every phase on offense. Bryant is still just a deep threat at this point with the occasional ability on a bubble screen. However, his presence on the field gets respect from safeties. He opens up the short passing for everyone else, and his presence along with the emergence of Smith-Schuster should make this offense a fine-tuned machine, and a smoother ride for Ben Roethlisberger in the second half compared to the first.
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