For the second straight game, and the fourth time in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ five games, the offense has relied upon quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for their scoring output, and he has responded in a manner that he never has before. He has thrown at least three touchdowns in four of this season’s five games, including five touchdowns last week, and four today, to give him 15 touchdown passes on the year.
The Steelers’ previous record for the most touchdown receptions in the first five games of a season was only 12, a record that Roethlisberger himself did not own, but he put some distance between his new record and the previous mark with today’s effort.
Roethlisberger was actually just one touchdown off from the most productive five-game stretch of his career, which came during the 2014 season when he became the first quarterback ever to throw at least six touchdown passes in back-to-back games. If you go three games prior or after the game, he added another four touchdowns in either direction, giving him 16 touchdown passes in a five-game span.
But those 16 touchdowns represented a full half of Roethlisberger’s touchdown total for the season, when he tied his own franchise record that year with 32 touchdowns passes. Having already gotten 15 under his belt with 11 games to play, he has the opportunity to really step into the game’s elite seasons in 2016.
With 15 touchdown passes through five games, Roethlisberger is averaging three touchdown passes per game, as my rudimentary math skills inform me. Those same abilities also indicate that he is on pace to throw 48 touchdowns this year on a prorated season using that touchdown-per-game rate, which would, of course, blow his previous best out of the water.
There have been only three seasons in NFL history in which a quarterback has thrown over 48 touchdowns, with two of them authored by Peyton Manning, the other belonging to Tom Brady. Dan Marino threw a 48-touchdown season in 1984. Drew Brees is next on the list with 46 in 2011.
Even if he cracks the 40-touchdown threshold, however, he will be joining a fraternity that includes only seven names, though with 11 different seasons, as the aforementioned quarterback have all had multiple 40-plus-touchdown seasons.
Roethlisberger has had little issue piling up the yardage in recent years, and doing so in a highly efficient manner, but he is clearly showing noticeable advancement with respect to his ability to put the ball in the end zone this year, which is, of course, the objective for the end of every drive, and he has been doing that better than ever.
Outside of that one (very significant) blip in Philadelphia in which the offense failed to score a touchdown—Roethlisberger did have a touchdown pass that was dropped early one—the Steelers have been fairly efficient, at worst, throughout the year on the offensive side of the ball, and Roethlisberger’s play over the course of the season, particularly in the past two games, has been on the upswing.