Through three games, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has thrown seven touchdown passes to one interception, leading nine total touchdown drives and 14 scoring drives altogether. He has completed 73 of 109 pass attempts for 777 yards. While his yards per attempt rate and general accuracy could use some fine-tuning, it’s hard to argue that he hasn’t played well so far in the first three games back from a severe elbow injury to his throwing arm.
Unless of course you’re Roethlisberger himself, and then you’re going to be full of complaints about your performance, as he was following yesterday’s game, in which he went 23-for-36 (in a game with at least three or four dropped passes) for 237 yards and two touchdowns with zero interceptions.
He was already dissatisfied with his play the first two weeks, to the point where he came in during the week telling quarterbacks coach Matt Canada that he wants to spend Wednesday working on his footwork. Which is exactly what he did.
“Like I said, as long as we’re winning it’s okay that I’m still trying to get back into the flow of it”, he told reporters after yesterday’s game. “I felt the footwork was better. There was still a couple of throws that I didn’t quite get my feet around, the one to [Eric] Ebron was one. James Washington on a shallow the one I can think of off the top of my head. So I’ll let you know one of these weeks when I feel like I’ve played a good one”.
Three games, no good ones, but all wins. If he keeps playing like this to the same results, I’ll certainly take it. The defense, outside of the pass rush, isn’t even playing to the level that it set last season, which was the driving force behind their ability to win even eight games, but that just goes to show what a difference Roethlisberger’s presence has made.
And he’s determined to do better and to keep improving. We are seeing this by degrees. Part of that is moving parts, new faces, and few opportunities to work together (including no preseason). We saw his connection with Eric Ebron grow in obvious ways, for example.
One area of concern is the deep ball. While the 84-yard touchdown to Chase Claypool stands out as the obvious exception, it’s clear that Roethlisberger hasn’t been on-point down the field so far this year, and yesterday’s game was certainly the worst of the three in that regard.
He wasn’t just missing, but missing badly, and I believe there was at least one play, a target to Diontae Johnson, on which pass interference wasn’t called simply because the ball was so uncatchable. If Roethlisberger can dial in his deep passing, which admittedly has gone hot and cold, it would go a long way toward his having a ‘good’ game at 38, with a reconstructed elbow.