There are four teams remaining in the playoffs. And none of them are perfect. All have flaws that can be their undoing. Every team is capable of winning it all, but they are also well-equipped to be handed a loss in just two days’ time. The Pittsburgh Steelers are no different, naturally.
And according to Pro Football Focus, the Steelers’ Achilles’ heel entering this game is none other than quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who has not been having his most consistent season, nor his best postseason. Through two playoff games so far, he has thrown two touchdowns and three interceptions while only being sacked twice.
In fact, Roethlisberger has thrown five interceptions over the span of his last three games, or eight interceptions over the course of his last five games. He has thrown nine of his 16 total interceptions in 16 games played this year in just the past six games played.
Prior to that, Roethlisberger actually had a streak during which he did not throw an interception over three games. But he has only posted a clean sheet in just six games all year, which does not necessarily bode well when it comes to ball security against the Patriots.
“This can be firmly counted among the things I didn’t expect to be the case in 2016”, writes Sam Monson for Pro Football Focus, “but Ben Roethlisberger has been a problem for the Steelers at times this season. He notes that the Steelers quarterback was their third-rated player at the position just last season, but his inconsistency this year has kept him well off that track.
An important thing he notes is the fact that Roethlisberger has received the best protection as a passer that he has ever seen over the course of his career, and yet he has been throwing more poor interceptions than ever—sans the miserably 2006 season, of course.
“No quarterback has been kept clean as often as Roethlisberger this season, with 77.0 percent of his dropbacks seeing him clean in the pocket”, Monson writes. “Including the playoffs, though, he has now thrown 11 interceptions without pressure being a factor, and those plays can be the difference in the postseason when games are tight”.
Consider that statistic. Roethlisberger has thrown 11 interceptions this season when he was not under pressure. Now, you can grant him that not all of them might be his fault, such as the one in the opener to Eli Rogers or the first one in Buffalo to Ladarius Green. But that is still a startling figure to consider.
If you follow me on Twitter, earlier in the week I pointed out a Tweet from another PFF writer who wrote that the final four will include the three best quarterbacks in the league, plus Roethlisberger. While I took umbrage to the deliberate nature in which it was framed, there is some truth to it. Really, it is more about the fact that he has been inconsistent rather than that he has been bad, by any means. But the Steelers need consistency out of him on Sunday—and then two weeks from Sunday.