2016 South Side Questions: Are TD Passes Or Interceptions More Significant Stat For Big Ben?

The regular season is here, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are taking their practices at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, formerly known and still referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility of Heinz Field. While the real work is now upon us, there is plenty left to be done.

And there are plenty of questions left unanswered as well. The offseason is just really the beginning phase of the answer-seeking process, which is lasts all the way through the Super Bowl for teams fortunate enough to reach that far.

You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the regular season and beyond looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they wade through a regular season in which they are, at least supposed to be, among the favorites to win the Super Bowl.

Question: Which number is more notable for Ben Roethlisberger: six touchdowns or three interceptions?

Over the course of the past few years, the offense under Roethlisberger has become more and more successful as a scoring unit. While Roethlisberger’s touchdown percentage was a bit lower than would be anticipated last season, that was offset by the increased number of rushing touchdowns.

But what was notable is that the Pro Bowler’s interception percentage was also quite high—among the highest in his career, outside of his 2006 season, which followed a tumultuous offseason that included a motorcycle accident and an appendectomy.

2015 was the only season in Roethlisberger’s career in which he threw more than 300 passes in which he averaged an interception on 3.4 percent of his passes. But outside of his 2016 season, he has never posted a percentage above four.

He is over four percent thus far through two games in the 2016 season, however, having thrown three interceptions on 74 pass attempts, equating to an interception on 4.1 percent of his passes. Roethlisberger’s success was marred by turnovers last year; it would certainly be unfortunate to see it happen again in 2016.

Yet at the same time, he also has six touchdown passes in two games, averaging a touchdown on 8.1 percent of his pass attempts, which is the highest figure in his career. The only year that compares is the 32-touchdown season of 2007.

So which is the more significant number, and which will be the bigger factor by the end of the season? Obviously we are still early in the season and are working with small sample sizes. Chances are his touchdown percentage will shrink, as will his interception percentage.

But I can’t help but become a bit concerned to see him throw three interceptions through two games after he had 16 interceptions in just 12 games last year. Granted, there seem to be some mitigating factors on at least of his interceptions, but there often are.

I expect that Roethlisberger should set a new franchise record in touchdown passes, which still stands at 32, but I just hope that his interception total stays under half of that number.

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