Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been sacked just 12 times this season. Of course, the fact that he has only played in two thirds of the season thus far does diminish that mark somewhat; if we prorate that figure over the course of the current season, he would have been sacked 18 times, on pace for a 24-sack season, but he is not likely to be sacked three times a game over the last four games.
It is significant, however; Roethlisberger’s lowest sack total for a season came in 2005, the year of his first Super Bowl victory, when he was sacked only 23 times. But in that year, he only played in 12 games, and did not throw the ball nearly as often. It is the only season of his career in which he totaled under 300 total drop backs.
No, Roethlisberger’s sack numbers are not only impressive in light of the rest of his career, they are also unprecedented for him, because, on a play-to-play basis, he has never remained nearly this upright over the course of a season.
As of Week 13, Roethlisberger is posting by far his lowest sack rate of his career. As his pass attempts have increased over the years, so too have his sacks, historically, but that is no longer the case.
This season, he is averaging 40 drop backs per game. That is approximately 40 opportunities in every game that he has played this season to be sacked. On average, he has been sacked 1.5 times per game.
By percentage, Roethlisberger has only been brought down on just 3.8 percent of his drop backs this year, which ranks as the fourth-lowest total in the league among qualified players this year, behind only Ryan Fitzpatrick, Derek Carr, and, ironically, Joe Flacco. They are the only four quarterbacks this season that have a percentage lower than four percent.
Roethlisberger’s previous best came last season when he was sacked just 33 times on 641 drop backs, which produced a sack percentage of 5.1. That number was already a full percentage point and then some clear of his previous best.
He has only posted four seasons of sack rates below seven percent. All four of them are in the past four seasons, all since Todd Haley took over as offensive coordinator. For his career, he has been sacked, on average, on 7.6 percent of his drop backs, or double the rate that he is currently seeing in 2015.
Of course, we have seen that the frequency of sacks does not necessarily translate successfully to the relative health of the season. While he has posted two of the lowest sack rates of his career in the last four years, he has also lost eight starts, and seven total games, due to injury.
On the other hand, of the three seasons in his career in which he has played in all 16 games, two have come in that period of time, and he has had less chronic injuries that keep him out of practice as well.