Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has thrown six interceptions over the course of the past six games, bringing his total for the season up to 13 and putting him on pace to throw the second-most interceptions of his career, behind only the disastrous and injury-plagued 2006 season in which he threw 23.
After an ugly three-interception game in the season opener against the Cleveland Browns, Roethlisberger seemed to get things under control, limiting his interceptions to just four over the course of the subsequent eight games, but the past three games have nearly doubled his season total, the issue resurfacing at the worst time.
The league is entering the fourth quarter of the season, and the Steelers in particular are hanging on to their position by the skin of their teeth. They have just a half-game lead in their division following a two-game losing skid and have four potential Wildcard teams lurking behind them.
Roethlisberger knows it’s up to him to stop giving their opponents free possessions, especially when they get into the red zone. “For me personally, it’s just taking care of the football”, he told Kevin Gorman.
“You can’t turn it over. You have to take care of the ball just like you would in the postseason. Every mistake is magnified. I approach these last four games like they’re the first four games of the postseason”.
If the Steelers are to reach the Super Bowl, it will almost assuredly take four games to get there, as their changes of earning a bye week have rapidly faded over the past two weeks. They were in position for one at that point, but have lost a lot of ground with these two losses.
“Turnovers are the key to football games”, he said, but added, “both ways. You’ve got to get them and you have to keep from giving them up”. And of course the Steelers have not been getting many of them, either.
The defense obviously has to do its part to produce some turnovers, but in the meantime, while they lag behind in that area, that only makes it all the more important that Roethlisberger exercise the utmost care in protecting the football over the last four games.
The Oakland Raiders do not have the most impressive secondary in the league, for sure, but the New England Patriots coming up next have the third-most interceptions in the NFL, and both they and the New Orleans Saints rank in the top half of the league in terms of takeaways.
That is something Roethlisberger has to be prepared for, especially if he knows that he can’t count on his defense giving him many free possessions. Every drive has to count, especially the ones that get into scoring range, and he has five interceptions from inside the 25-yard line.