I am assuming that most fans who closely follow the Pittsburgh Steelers would agree that, in spite of his general statistical output so far this year, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has had a lot of issues to start the 2018 season. Slow starts are not uncommon for him, but the overall quantity of poor throws has reached a new high according to the eye test.
And according to Pro Football Focus as well, which has him graded as having the third-highest percentage of negative throws so far this year at 19.5 percent, behind only rookies Sam Darnold and Josh Allen, two quarterbacks who were both regarded as needing another season of college football by many.
By their charting, they also have him making eight turnover-worthy throws so far this year, which is tied for the second-most in the NFL behind only Andrew Luck. In their data, he also had eight such throws through the first five games before improving. But he had far fewer in recent years leading up to now.
Even more striking is that he only has a quarterback rating of 99.8 when he has a clean pocket, which ranks 23rd out of 36 quarterbacks. A quarterback with a clean pocket should be like a three-point shooter in the NBA with a clean look at the basket: virtually automatic.
Yet another continuing theme from last season is the fact that he has struggled to complete passes down the field. the only quadrant in which he has completed at least 50 percent of his passes among balls thrown 10 or more yards in the air is on intermediate throws over the middle of the field.
And yet he has thrown for 1664 yards with 11 touchdowns, with five completions of 40 or more yards and 20 completions that went for explosive plays. He is on pace to set a new career-high in touchdown passes, having now thrown three in three of the past four games.
These numbers are not necessarily bad news for the season, especially given that he is still, overall, performing. It means that there is room for improvement, and historically, he has made those improvements as the season has gone on.
He is also in better shape than he has been in years, even seeming to show more willingness to scramble for first downs than he has been in recent seasons. If he can improve in these specific areas in which he is struggling, minimizing negative throws, then the Steelers are still undoubtedly a championship-caliber team this year.