About a month ago, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger seemed well on his way to throwing his name into the league MVP discussion, making history in back to back weeks by becoming the first player to ever throw for 500 yards in a game twice, and then throwing six touchdown passes, for 12 total, in consecutive games.
That was just four weeks, and three games, in the rearview mirror. The Steelers had just completed a triumphant sweep of a three-game homestand against three teams who are currently .500 or better.
At that time, he had thrown for 22 touchdowns versus just three interceptions for 2720 yards on 231 for 338 throwing, completing a career-best 68.3 percent of his passes and averaging just over eight yards per attempt.
He has not fared nearly as well over the course of the past three games, which included two games on the road before finally returning to Heinz Field on Sunday in a loss to the Saints that wasn’t as close as the three-point differential suggested.
Since pounding the Ravens and posting a season quarterback rating of around 110, Roethlisberger has thrown only four touchdown passes, all of which have come in the fourth quarter, and only one of which resulted in a victory, as the Steelers went 1-2 in their past three games to fall to 7-5.
Meanwhile, he has nearly tripled his interception total, throwing five in the last three games to give him eight on the year. He was picked off twice on Sunday, and twice against the Jets, who have struggled to turn the ball over this season.
The overarching theme to take away from this? As Mike Tomlin suggested during his press conference, Roethlisberger simply has not been as accurate with his throws in recent weeks, culminating in Sunday’s display, which has had equally to do with collapsing pockets and breakdowns in mechanics—not banging his hand on a helmet.
Remember, Roethlisberger was only two for seven passing to start the game against the Saints before he hit his throwing hand on a linebacker’s helmet. The quarterback was adamant to not use that as an excuse for his inaccuracy, and he’s never really been one to undersell his battle scars.
The Steelers quarterback was only sacked once, technically, in the last game, but he found himself on the ground a few other times, and he didn’t have a steady pocket for much of his career-high 58 pass attempts.
Similar themes could be found in key instances in the last two games as well, and they have resulted in key blunders, such as his interception in Tennessee, throwing off the wrong foot.
If there’s been one consistent thread within the fabric of the 2014 Steelers, it has to be that the Steelers will struggle to find success as their quarterback struggles. In order to right the ship, Pittsburgh must find a way to help out their quarterback. I would suggest shorter dropbacks and quicker releases that create fewer opportunities for pressure or overthinking.