With a quarter of the season now in the books, Ben Roethlisberger’s strengths and weaknesses in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2017 passing game are beginning to come into focus. He has been better at completing passes against Zone than he has against Man Coverage; he has struggled significantly in the deep areas of the field; and he has had very limited success when throwing vertical-breaking routes. Below is an analysis of each of these areas.
Completion Percentage by Coverage Shell
After 78 total passing snaps against Man (Cover 0, Cover 1, and Cover 2-Man) Roethlisberger has completed only 55.1% of his passes, compared to 73.8% after playing 61 snaps against Zone (Cover 3 and Cover 2-Zone).
Additionally, Antonio Brown continues to see a higher frequency of targets when facing single-high safety coverages compared to two-high safety looks. Interestingly, Roethlisberger has targeted LeVeon Bell the most frequently against two-high coverages, indicating that a more cautious mindset in these situations (given that the majority of Bell’s targets come on check-down routes).
- Cover 1: Completions/Attempts: Brown (20/48), Bell (2/48), James (6/48), Rogers (5/48), Bryant (9/48), JuJu (6/48)
- Cover 3: Completions/Attempts: Brown (14/40), Bell (8/40), James (2/40), Rogers (3/40), Bryant (8/40), JuJu (3/40), McDonald (1/40), Hunter (1/40)
- Cover 2 Zone: Completions/Attempts: Brown (6/21), Bell (6/21), James (5/21), Rogers (1/21), Bryant (2/21), JuJu (1/21)
- Cover 2 Man: Completions/Attempts: Brown (4/23), Bell (7/23), James (5/21), Rogers (1/21), Bryant (2/21), JuJu (1/21)
Completion Percentage by Route-Type and Target Area
Roethlisberger’s route-type completion percentages are consistent with his performance when throwing against different coverages and when targeting different field areas. For example, his four worst routes (Post, Seam, Corner, and Vertical) each coincide with his worst target areas (the deep thirds of the field). Moreover, given that Roethlisberger struggles when throwing these routes, it also makes sense that Cover 2-Man and Cover 1 have given him the most trouble, since those patterns are arguably the most common beater-routes for those shells. This information confirms what we have all seen through the Steelers’ first four games: Roethlisberger has generally been reading the defense properly, but has simply has not connected on his throws.
Completion Percentage by Targeted Receiver
Roethlisberger’s completion percentage categorized by his targeted receiver is pretty straightforward; however, I have also included each receivers’ catch percentage from the 2016 season in order to give some perspective.
- Catches/Targets: James (15/20), Bell (17/23), Brown (30/45), JuJu (8/14), Rogers (6/11), Hunter (1/2), Bryant (10/23), McDonald (0/1)
- 2016 Catch Rates: James (65%), Bell (80%), Brown (69%), JuJu at USC (N/A), Rogers (73%), Hunter (43%), McDonald with San Francisco (53%)
Situational Passing Stats
Lastly, I pulled this chart from NFL.com for those that asked to see some stats relating Roethlisberger’s performance in different game situations: