PFF: Ben Roethlisberger’s Biggest Weakness Is Intermediate Passing Game

Considering the amount of time that he missed a year ago, the lack of availability this offseason—oh yeah—and the fact that he had three tendons in his elbow reattached, it’s hard to have expected much more, or much better, from the first three games of the 2020 season for Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Through that time, the 17-year veteran has completed 73 of 109 pass attempts for 777 yards, throwing seven touchdown passes (leading nine total touchdown drives) against one interception, good enough for a quarterback rating of 105.2.

And a passing grade of 70.0 from Pro Football Focus, which was good enough for 18th so far among quarterbacks in that area. He is currently graded below Daniel Jones, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Nick Mullins, Kirk Cousins, and Joe Burrow, among others, though ahead of Kyler Murray, Jimmy Garoppolo, Matthew Stafford, and Gardner Minshew.

The long and short of it is the site isn’t particularly impressed so far with what they have seen from the Steelers’ quarterback, but they also recognize that he has been sufficient enough to get the job done, able to get Pittsburgh off to a 3-0 start.

And according to them, his biggest weakness has been his intermediate passing game, though I would contest that their evaluation for the most part is based upon older data, as they cite numbers going back to 2018, when in reality he has been pretty efficient in the intermediate area. Steve Palazzolo writes:

There’s been a subtle decline to parts of Roethlisberger’s game, even starting in 2018 during his 5,000-yard passing season. His 67.8 passing grade on intermediate (10-19-yard) throws since 2018 ranks just 39th out of 47 qualifiers, and that’s an area in which he used to dominate. His decision-making has been poor, as well. Roethlisberger has 12 turnover-worthy throws in that area of the field, tied for 14th in the NFL despite him missing almost all of 2019.

If you look at his intermediate passing numbers this year, however, he hasn’t been bad at all. He has completed 12 of 16 passes thrown between 10 and 19 yards beyond the line of scrimmage for 169 yards and three touchdowns, versus no interceptions.

If their analysis is correct, then it would be fair to say that he is strengthening the weakest part of his game this season. In 2018, he completed 68 of 131 pass attempts in the intermediate range for 1204 yards with only four touchdowns to eight interceptions. He only attempted eight intermediate passes last year before his injury, but completed three of them for 64 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions.

If he has any area I’m concerned with, it’s the deep passing game. So far this season, he has only completed three of 14 deep pass attempts for 140 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. 84 of that of course came on the Chase Claypool touchdown. The other completions were Claypool’s first catch and Diontae Johnson’s touchdown in week two.

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