Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown may have come up 76 yards of making obscure history today in an attempt to set the record for the most receiving yards in a two-game span, but his quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, had a brush with obscure history of his own.
For the first time in his career since entering the starting lineup, Roethlisberger dressed for a game as a backup and played. Of course, the 12th-year veteran suffered a midfoot sprain during the fourth quarter of last week’s game, and the decision was made to keep him out, giving Landry Jones the start, with Roethlisberger only playing if it became necessary.
It did become necessary rather quickly after Jones suffered a foot injury of his own four minutes into the game after his right tackle backed up and stepped on his foot on a third-down incompletion. Roethlisberger came in and played the rest of the way.
Outside of an interception, he played very well, completing 22 of 33 passes, three of which went for touchdowns and totaling 379 yards through the air—the most ever by a quarterback in a game in which he did not start.
379 yards is the most passing yards that he has had in a game this season in six games (five starts), though he threw for at least 330 yards in three of his previous five games. On the season, he now has thrown for 1887 yards on 211 pass attempts, completing 141 while averaging 8.94 yards per pass attempt.
Those numbers were boosted by Roethlisberger’ performance today, which improved upon the obscure record most recently held by Wade Wilson for the Minnesota Vikings. He threw for 374 yards in relief in a game in 1990.
Wilson was an on-and-off starter throughout his career, which began in 1981. Over the course of the previous three years, he started 26 of 34 games played. He started the first three games of the 1990 season before Rich Gannon took over, starting 12 of the last 13 games.
During that 374-yard game, Gannon was 2-for-10 for eight yards and one interception before giving way to Wilson. While he threw 24-for-39, he also netted just one touchdown versus four interceptions in the 26-13 defeat.
Roethlisberger’s performance stands on its own, completing two-thirds of his passes while averaging over 10 yards per attempt, including three touchdowns, but it of course comes with a sort of a caveat.
Without doing much research, I am willing to freely speculate that Roethlisberger today was one of, if not the greatest backup quarterbacks ever, in a game in which he dressed as a backup. Mike Tomlin joked that he may have to have the backup start the next game.
The 33-year-old is coming off a Pro Bowl season in which he broke and extended some of his own franchise records, entering this year as one of the favorites to make a run at the league MVP. His season has only been derailed by injury, but his team is 4-2 in games in which he has played.