You have probably seen the statistic by now that Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has the shortest time-to-throw number in the NFL among qualifying quarterbacks. I believe he is getting the ball out of his hands, on average, 2.33 seconds after the snap, which is really just picking up where he left off in 2018, and in recent years in general.
One of the reasons that he so frequently gets the ball out as quickly as he does? Because he goes up against a defense that so easily and so frequently reminds him in practice of the mental clock that every quarterback needs to have to understand when to expect the rush to be coming, a warning to get rid of the ball.
“We’ve got to keep that sense of timing in the pocket. We play against the defense every day in practice that puts pressure on him, and you know that timing better stay on that clock in your head”, offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner said on Thursday, via transcript. “Better know that the ball has to come out”.
It has come in handy in recent weeks as well, considering some of the defenses and pass rushes that they have had to go up against, such as that of the Cleveland Browns and the Philadelphia Eagles. “You look at some of the teams that we played over the last couple weeks. You are talking about J.J. Watt, you are talking about the guys in Philly, you’re talking about just the recklessness of number 95 [Myles Garrett] and what he can do to a game. I think Ben has taken that to heart”, Fichtner said.
It probably doesn’t hurt that he is also playing with a surgically-repaired elbow. Even though he says that it has not caused him any issues at all this season, I’m sure it’s something that he might think about from time to time, even just as reminder of trying to avoid hits.
“He is holding up his end of the bargain towards team protection”, Fichtner said of Roethlisberger’s role in limiting pressure. “We can’t allow for potentially that negative play of sack strip fumble. And obviously, we don’t want him to get hit. To be plain and honest, for me, I don’t want him get hit. I don’t want to see him be bruised and if we can hopefully be as right as we can possibly be and him be as comfortable as he can possibly be, then we can keep the ball coming out on rhythm”.
Roethlisberger’s time to throw is also as low as it is because he is throwing the ball short so frequently. I expect this to evolve over the course of the season as he continues to get more comfortable, not just with himself and his arm velocity and strength, but with the targets around him, most of whom he doesn’t have a lot of on-field reps with.
But he’ll still have T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree to remind him of when the ball has to come out during the week.