A season in which a six-time Pro Bowl quarterback posts career-highs in yardage and touchdowns yet doesn’t even make the Pro Bowl provided for an interesting case study. That is a fair description of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s 2018 season, in which he led the league with over 5000 passing yards and a franchise-record 34 passing touchdowns, but received no accolades for it.
While much of that has to do with the fact that the Steelers missed the playoffs—riding a 2-4 finish to the season—it is also the case that there are examples of negative play in his game that help to justify the general perception of his season as fairly pedestrian for a supposedly elite player.
But that doesn’t mean it has become his baseline. And that is where Pro Football Focus is working from after they placed Roethlisberger eighth in their 2019 quarterback rankings, even though he graded out only 16th in their system from the 2018 season. He was the only quarterback in the list who graded outside of the top 10 a year ago. From the article, quoting the site’s QB Annual:
Roethlisberger got off to a sloppy start, where he was forcing throws left and right into coverage, and his timing and accuracy were all over the place – especially down the field. He cleaned up his game in the middle part of the season with a mix of a quick passing attack and better accuracy on throws of 20-plus yards. Inconsistency throughout a game was the common theme for this year, as they are for many years when he doesn’t play up to a top-10 standard – with poor decisions under duress late in the play, sloppy ball location at times and then bouncing back to make a big play when it was needed.
This happens to be very similar to what PFF’s Steve Palazzolo recently said during an AFC North Roundtable discussion when the topic of Roethlisberger and the contrast between his numbers and his grade were concerned, and in this case I do happen to think they’re pretty right in assessing his past season.
Like them, I also happen to think that this is a one-year issue that shouldn’t bear much carry-over to next season. Sure, it’s rather possible that he once again starts off sluggish with his deep-ball accuracy as he did last year, but I’m optimistic that he will be more consistent in making positive decisions this season.
The Steelers are still confident in his ability to lead the team to a championship as well. They signed him to a two-year contract extension in April that makes him the second-highest-paid player in NFL history based on per-year averages, behind only Russell Wilson.
Wilson, by the way, came sixth on the list. The top five in descending order were Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers, and Andrew Luck. Matt Ryan came in seventh, while Philip Rivers and Baker Mayfield placed ninth and 10th, respectively.