The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: Ben Roethlisberger will post the best interception rate of his career.
Explanation: A quarterback’s interception rate is the percentage of the passes that he throws that are intercepted. Anything lower than two percent is very good. He has posted an interception rate below two percent three times in full seasons, with the best coming in 2010 (over 12 games) when he threw just five interceptions on 389 pass attempts for an interception rate of 1.3%.
Well, if his start is anything to go by, then you would say the smart money is on his keeping himself clean. So far through the first quarter of the season, Ben Roethlisberger has only thrown one interception, on 143 pass attempts. That’s an interception rate of just .7 percent. If he throws just one interception in his next 15 or so passes, he’ll still be below that mark.
I think it’s telling that Roethlisberger has commented (when asked, mind you) about the impulse to make sure that everybody’s getting targets, and he clearly alluded to keeping Antonio Brown happy for years, indicating that that led to some interceptions that shouldn’t have happened.
Outside of simply not relying upon Brown, he is putting far fewer passes in harm’s way than he had been in recent years. I’m not sure that he had a turnover-worthy throw at all yesterday, and he usually has his fair share.
Keeping a rate like that is no easy feat, especially for a gunslinger like Roethlisberger. Only eight quarterbacks managed it last year, and that was an anomaly, and most of them are conservative passers or Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes. Only three did it the year before. Only two the year before that. Nobody was lower than 1.3% in 2012.
One thing to keep in mind is that Roethlisberger is inevitably going to get more aggressive as the season progresses, which means that he is going to be pushing the ball further down the field more frequently and throwing into tighter windows. These will inevitably lead to more interceptions. And the last time he threw fewer than 13 in a single season was in 2014.