Whether it’s points, yardage, efficiency, or just about most any other means of evaluation you can think of, the Pittsburgh Steelers did have one of the better offenses in the NFL last season. Certainly one of the best offenses that ended up missing the playoffs. And generally, the best offenses in today’s game have a quarterback capable of generating a heap of yardage.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has shown in the back half of his career that he is more than capable of doing that. He has led or tied for the league in passing yardage twice in his career now, first in 2014 with Drew Brees and then last year, throwing for over 5000 yards, the first in team history to break that barrier.
He did so on a league-leading 675 pass attempts, and he averaged 7.6 yards per attempt, the same that he averaged a year earlier when he threw for 4251 yards (albeit in 15 games, on 561 pass attempts). He has thrown for over 4000 yards six times in his 15-year career, including five times of 4200 yards or more.
And Pro Football Focus is projecting him as one of seven quarterbacks who will reach that mark during the 2019 season after hitting it two years in a row. This has been the second time in his career he has done it in back-to-back years, but never three in a row.
Losing Antonio Brown this offseason shouldn’t keep Big Ben from turning in another strong season in 2019. While Roethlisberger did have his passing grade drop to an uncharacteristic 75.2 in 2018, he is expected to bounce back and return to form while at the helm of what should continue to be a high-volume passing attack this upcoming season. He will also have rising stars in JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner to feed the ball to in the passing game, in addition to an underrated Vance McDonald and a potential surprise contributor in rookie Diontae Johnson.
While Antonio Brown and his 160-plus targets are gone, the reality is that JuJu Smith-Schuster produced more yards. In fact, Roethlisberger could nearly take out Brown’s numbers and still come close to hitting a 4000-yard season on a little over 500 attempts.
Pro Football Focus is projecting him to have 4241 passing yards along with 27.9 touchdown passes and 12.9 interceptions. All of those numbers are a reduction from last season, including the interceptions, when he lead the league with 16.
The other six quarterbacks that they expect to reach 4200 passing yards are Phlip Rivers, Drew Brees, Jameis Winston, Matt Ryan, Jared Goff, and Patrick Mahomes. Of the seven, five threw for 4200-plus yards last year. Those who did not were Brees and Winston, neither of whom played 16 games. Both of them averaged enough yards per game played to prorate to a 4200-plus-yard season, however.