One primary goal for new Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner in 2018 is to increase the red zone touchdown production of his unit. By association, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger needs to improve in that area of the field as well when it comes to his passing. While Roethlisberger has never been overly great when it comes to his red zone completion percentages, if you drill down deeper into his 2017 stats you’ll really find an area he needs to improve in and that’s throws to the end zone.
Last season, Roethlisberger attempted 41 pass attempts inside the red zone in which the football traveled in the air to at least the goal-line. Of those attempts, only 13 (31.7%) were completed for touchdowns. He also had one of those attempts intercepted and that of course happened late in the Week 15 loss to the New England Patriots.
12 of those red zone end zone targets went to wide receiver Antonio Brown and he caught five of them. Tight end Jesse James and former wide receiver Martavis Bryant each had two receptions while Eli Rogers, Justin Hunter, Vance McDonald and JuJu Smith-Schuster each had one. Also, 12 of Roethlisberger’s red zone end zone completions came from the 10-yard-line and closer. Those 12 completions, however, were part of 30 overall attempts in that area of the field.
As for third-down red zone end zone pass attempts in 2017, Roethlisberger was 5-of-12 with an interception.
Having a shorter area of the field to work with is obviously a challenge for most quarterbacks but it’s one that must be overcome. If it’s any consolation to you, Roethlisberger threw 21 red zone touchdown passes in 2017 and only four other quarterbacks threw more than him. If, however, Roethlisberger can improve his red zone end zone completion percentage in 2018, he might just end the season with the most red zone touchdown passes in the league.
This will be a stat you can expect me to track very closely during the 2018 season and in the coming weeks I hope to have a 2017 comparison of Roethlisberger to the other top quarterbacks in the league when it comes to red zone end zone attempts. I will, however, tell you that New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was 16-of-34 on red zone end zone throws in 2017. Also, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz was 16 of 26 on such throws.