While Ben Roethlisberger has put up some generally strong numbers so far this season—completing about 70 percent of his passes with over 1000 yards, 10 touchdowns, and just one interception in the first four games—one area in which his game has been lacking, and of which he is aware, has been in the vertical component of the passing game.
So far this season, he has attempted 18 passes thrown 20 or more yards down the field, and he has completed only four of them, an average of one per week, completing just 22.2 percent of said passes. Those four completions have gone for 175 yards and he has hit on three touchdowns, against his lone interception, but many of his passes have been far off the mark—over people’s heads.
“Yeah, I’m not shying away from throwing it. I just want to connect on it more”, he told reporters earlier today regarding the deep ball. “I want to connect every pass I throw though, short or long, just because I’m overthrowing a little bit. I went back and looked at some of them, too. There were a couple PIs, so that’s a guy getting held a little bit, too. That can then lead to an overthrow. Like I said before, as long as I’m overthrowing and not underthrowing, that’s the okay miss”.
The 38-year old is averaging 4.5 deep passes per game, so it is fair to say that he is not shying away from it, but he is only completing one of those 4.5 passes, so there is clearly room for improvement, even if, as he says, some of those incompletions have been due to penalties not being called. They did get two defensive pass interference calls in their favor on Sunday.
According to Pro Football Focus, Roethlisberger has had virtually the worst deep ball accuracy on the year. The only quarterbacks with a lower adjusted completion percentage with at least 10 deep ball attempts are Dwayne Haskins, who has been benched, Mitchell Trubisky, who has also been benched, and Joe Burrow, who cannot be benched. His four deep completions rank him tied for 25th-most in the league, though he is tied for the 16th-most attempts.
For those who might be wondering, Roethlisberger completed 30 deep pass attempts in 2018 on 87 attempts, throwing for 1100 yards with 15 touchdowns to two interceptions. He ranked fourth in deep passing yardage, tied for first in touchdowns, and was sixth in deep completions.
For the moment, he is on pace to complete just 16 deep passes for 700 yards with 12 touchdowns to four interceptions. 16 completions ranked 22nd in 2018, and 24th in 2019. But he also has a pattern of getting better on deep passes as the season progresses, so it would be premature to panic.