The Pittsburgh Steelers advanced to 9-5 on the season with their 27-20 victory yesterday over the Atlanta Falcons, and they did so largely thanks to the solid quarterback play of Ben Roethlisberger.
On the day, he completed close to 80 percent of his passes, going 27 for 35 while totaling 360 yards through the air for just over 10 yards per pass attempt. The Steelers also put together another game in which they did not turn the ball over.
And yet Roethlisberger failed to throw a single touchdown pass in the game. Prior to the Steelers’ week two loss to the Ravens, he had thrown at last one touchdown pass in 31 straight games, and had managed at least one in every game since up until now.
He led his offense to the Falcons’ 20-yard line on each of the Steelers’ first two possessions, but both drives stalled out there, as Roethlisberger had to settle for a pair of 38-yard Shaun Suisham field goals instead.
The first end zone celebration of the game did come from the Steelers, but it was with Matt Ryan at quarterback, as William Gay intercepted his pass at midfield to start the second quarter and returned it 52 yards for the score.
Contrary to the predominant theme that has stretched across the vast majority of this season, the Steelers offense got their points through the ground game, even though they struggled to get anything going.
Le’Veon Bell had just 47 yards on the ground on 20 rushing attempts, averaging 2.4 yards per carry, but two of those 20 rushing attempts finished in the end zone. It was the first time in his career that he’d scored multiple touchdowns in back-to-back games, and the first time a Steelers running back had done that in 12 years.
Bell now has seven rushing touchdowns on the season, but six of them have come in the last four weeks. Before that, the offense had relied on Roethlisberger to get into the end zone.
Of the 39 offensive touchdowns the Steelers have scored, 29 remain touchdown passes from their quarterback. They also got one touchdown pass from Antonio Brown, who has 11 of Roethlisberger’s touchdown throws.
For so much of the season, the Steelers’ success seemed to have been tied to whether or not Roethlisberger was playing at a satisfactory level. If he didn’t play winning football, the team didn’t have the type of defense to overcome that.
It’s hard to imagine, then, that the Steelers could put up 27 points without a touchdown pass, but the reality is that Roethlisberger did play well. He completed his throws at a high percentage and led the offense to four scoring drives, while running out the clock at the end of the game with a 25-yard completion on third and one.
Not to mention, his victory over the Falcons made him one of the few players to beat 31 teams, in the process breaking his own franchise record for passing yards in a season, totaling 4415, which puts him on pace to throw for over 5000 yards. If he averages two touchdown passes in the last two games, he can still break his own record for touchdown passes in a season as well.