One of the underrated aspects of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s historic performance against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday is simply how well the 11th-year veteran performed against the blitz, which according to Kevin Seifert for ESPN, the road team brought over 40 percent of the time.
The problem for the Colts, however, is that Roethlisberger has been among the best quarterbacks in the league combating the blitz, even prior to his inspired display further boosted his statistics.
On the Colts’ 21 blitzes, Roethlisberger completed 17 of 21 passes for a completion percentage of 81 percent, throwing for 237 yards and averaging 11.3 yards per pass attempt, in addition to two of his six touchdowns.
On the season, Roethlisberger has only been blitzed 62 times. That has produced three sacks, but he has completed 41 of his 59 pass attempts for a completion percentage of 69.5: just above his overall percentage. He is averaging 9.5 yards per pass attempt versus the blitz, throwing for 560 yards, with four touchdown passes against one interception, and a quarterback rating of 115.1.
The story here is the fact that Roethlisberger’s performance against standard rushes prior to this past game has been comparatively pedestrian, and is the reason that most teams up until this Sunday rarely blitzed him much. He faced an average of less than six blitzes per game before seeing 21 of them against the Colts.
In the first seven games, Roethlisberger dropped back against standard rushes 236 times. He was sacked or forced to scramble or throw the ball away 22 times.
He completed 142 of his 214 pass attempts for a completion percentage of 66.3, which is still good, but those 214 pass attempts produced 1546 yards, a yards per pass attempt average of just 7.2 yards. He also threw eight touchdowns versus two interceptions.
Against standard rushes against the Colts, it was a different story. He completed 23 of 28 passes for a completion percentage of 82.1 percent, throwing for 285 yards on 10.2 yards per pass attempt, as well as four touchdown passes.
That has boosted his overall numbers against standard rushes and placed it on a more equitable level against blitzes, as he is now completing over 68 percent of his passes at 7.6 yards per attempt, while throwing a touchdown approximately once every 20 passes. Against the blitz, he finds the end zone once every 15.5 passes.
According to the ESPN article mentioned earlier, opponents only blitzed the Steelers 17.3 percent of the time prior to the Colts game, which was the second-lowest rate in the NFL. The Colts, however, are a team that likes to blitz. They chose to stick with their own formula while trying to impose their will. They chose the wrong day, however, to try to beat Ben Roethlisberger with the blitz.