Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger did end up throwing more touchdown passes today than interceptions, which is always a positive development in and of itself, but even that felt like pulling teeth. Really, just about everything about the entire game seemed like a visit to the dentist. In a horror movie.
And Roethlisberger might not have been horrible by the end of the game, but he certainly was maddeningly frustrating, especially in the first half. He completed just seven of his 15 pass attempts through the first two quarters for only 72 yards an interception, which much of that productivity coming on the final two-minute drive.
That means he was averaging under 50 percent completions and under five yards per pass attempt in the first half. The second half, mercifully, was a much different story.
He finished the game with 19 receptions on 31 attempts for 236 yards, two touchdown passes, and one interception, so you can see how things changed. In the second half, he completed 12 of 16 pass attempts, or three quarters of his attempts, for 164 yards—averaging over 10 yards per attempt—and two touchdowns, both of which came in the red zone.
He also connected on three explosive passing plays in the second half, with two of them going to rookie wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. The first was a big 44-yarder down the right sideline on an excellent throw. The second was a key 20-yard strike that came on third and 12.
The third explosive play was basically the game-winning play, or at least the play that set up the game-winning play. after Roethlisberger just completed on third and four to Martavis Bryant on a crossing route for 19 yards, he did an excellent job of escaping pressure and getting the ball out to Antonio Brown over the middle in space.
The All-Pro wide receiver did the rest, setting up a catch-and-run of 32 yards from midfield, taking it all the way inside the 20. Roethlisberger finished off two prior red-zone drives with scores, but they didn’t need to here.
Following just two conservative Le’Veon Bell rushes that forced the Colts to use their final timeout, Roethlisberger and the offense set Chris Boswell up for a redemptive game-winning field goal from extra point distance, sealing the 20-17 lead.
It goes without saying that the Steelers, and Roethlisberger, need to play better, and more consistently, to continue to win during this season. But they—and he—played well enough to win today, against a bad team. That’s enough for now, but Thursday is another challenge, hosting the Titans, with a 6-3 record.