Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger entered Sunday’s game as one of the most secure quarterbacks in the NFL, having thrown just one interception on 165 pass attempts through the first five games of the season, at a rate of just .6 percent.
He came out of this week’s performance quadrupling his interception total on 49 passes, throwing an interception on about six percent of his passes for that game, and now with four interceptions on 214 pass attempts, for an interception rate that is suddenly at 1.9 percent (which is still his lowest since 2014, now ranking 15th in the league.
Head coach Mike Tomlin, however, was not concerned with the sudden flurry of turnovers by his franchise quarterback, and a lot of that was due to the context in which they came, particularly his first interception—at the end of the first half on the very outskirts of field goal range with 14 seconds to play.
“Nothing to be concerned about”, Tomlin said. “One of them was at the end of a half and we were trying to make a play. The other one was a tipped pass. Sometimes that misfortune happens. And the other one was trying to make an aggressive play at the end of the game to a guy that he developed a great rapport with over the course of the game, and who had made several top-notch, tough, combat catches”.
That would be JuJu Smith-Schuster, who caught a season-high nine passes for 85 yards on his first 13 targets of the game before getting to that point. His first interception was more of a hail Mary ball (though not quite), and of course the deflected pass interception was not targeted.
“We live and learn, but we don’t cry over the spilt milk, we move forward to this week’s challenges, understand that preservation of the ball is important in this matchup”, he went on. It’s worth noting that James Conner and Chase Claypool both also fumbled in this game, but were able to recover both of them.
The Steelers as a team had just four giveaways in their first five games, then nearly doubled it on one afternoon. Now they face a defense that has forced 11 takeaways so far over six games, which ranks ninth in the NFL, and they have at least one in every game.
I don’t think that Roethlisberger has suddenly become less secure with the ball in a dramatic way. I do have reservations about throwing to Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey all day. The pair have three interceptions and five forced fumbles on the season so far this year, and nine passes defensed.
As far as getting the ball over the line is concerned, Calais Campbell already has five batted passes, and Roethlisberger has already had six passes batted down this year. He only had seven on 675 pass attempts in 2018