Even though the supposedly lowly New York Jets have plenty of problems on defense—they’ve given up more touchdown passes than anybody, while taking the ball away in historically drought-like fashion—they believe they have one way to help stop the Pittsburgh Steelers’ currently red hot offense.
Defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson told Rich Cimini on Thursday that they believe they can get after quarterback Ben Roethlisberger—and when they do, they can get the ball out.
It has been, statistically, the best way thus far for the opposing defense to get the ball away from the Steelers this year. While he has only thrown three interceptions, he has fumbled six times, losing four of them, including one on Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens. The rest of the Steelers as a team have lost four fumbles.
Not all of Roethlisberger’s fumbles have come on sacks. The last one against the Ravens, for example, was initiated by a muffed center exchange.
He also fumbled in the season opener when Maurkice Pouncey snapped the ball before he was ready for it, and also ended the Tampa Bay game losing the ball on a desperation lateralpalooza at the end of the game. In both of those instances, the offense recovered.
In all, Roethlisberger has been strip sacked three times so far this season, and has lost the ball in each of those three occasions.
As Cimini points out on his article, Roethlisberger has fumbled 15 times over the last two seasons, losing ten of them.
Before I produce this statistic, I have to caution that it’s not going to be perfectly accurate. It doesn’t take into account the fact that fumbles also come on center exchanges and muffed handoffs.
But in his career, Roethlisberger has fumbled the ball 75 times, losing a bit more than half of them. He’s thrown the ball 4684 times in his career. If all of those fumbles occurred during sacks, that would equate to a fumble once every 63 or so drop backs.
Of course, not all of those fumbles were produced as the result of a pass rush, that much is obvious. There have been a number of bad snaps or missed handoffs, and no doubt they account for a not insignificant minority of those snaps.
Nevertheless, it does give a quick glimpse at the data without mining through 11 years’ worth of statistics, but I think it’s safe to say the majority of those fumbles, as is generally the case for pocket quarterbacks, were generated by the pass rush.
So Wilkerson does have a point. Roethlisberger has had ball security issues as part of his resume for most of his career. He’s lost a fumble on a sack once every three games this year alone.
But according to Cimini’s article, the Jets are probably not going to get it, anyway. They’ve forced 27 fumbles going back to last season, but have only recovered an astounding four of them. So maybe there’s nothing to worry about after all.