Earlier in the week, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had merely a couple words for his teammates in approaching the second half of the regular season schedule.
On the surface, it’s an obvious call to action from a two-time Super Bowl Champion and potential Hall of Famer. But the veteran signal-caller’s numbers this season in specific context could give the impression that his team has been following him all along, depending on where they play… and how he performs.
In Roethlisberger’s three starts at home this season, he’s been quite easy to follow, with a 67.57 completion percentage, 313 yards per game and 12 touchdowns with only two interceptions and four sacks, good enough for a 122.2 passer rating. The Steelers have scored nearly 33 points per game and won each of those starts.
But Roethlisberger’s performance on the road tells a different story. In four road games, he has completed only 58.13% of his passes with five touchdowns, five picks and he’s been sacked nine times. His 74.2 road passer rating this season is on pace to be the second-lowest of his career (69.7 in 2006), and only the second time less than 80 in his least 10 seasons.
What makes this number more alarming is the precipitous decline Roethlisberger’s road performances have taken in the past three seasons, having dropped from 91 in 2014 to 86 last season. Per Adam Gretz from NBC Sports, Big Ben has the biggest drop in passer rating in home games vs. road games over that same span at -25.9 (Ryan Fitzpatrick of the New York Jets is second with -16.6).
Sunday afternoon’s meeting with the Dallas Cowboys is the sole home game for the Steelers over the next three weeks. The other three remaining home games are against the New York Giants, Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns, all in December. Conversely, their four scheduled road games are against Indianapolis (Thanksgiving Day), Cleveland, Cincinnati and Buffalo, four teams with a combined record of 11-24-1.
This week seems like the perfect time for their quarterback to put their best foot forward against a Dallas team that is on a roll with a rookie in Dak Prescott who has won seven of his first eight starts under center. (Sound familiar?)
If the Steelers hope to follow their franchise quarterback to a better playoff position and a potential AFC North Division championship they’ll have to make sure he’s headed in the right direction. This next game will be the necessary point to change course.